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Report: El Faro captain couldn’t beat hurricane due to mechanical problem

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The captain of the missing ship El Faro tried to steer ahead of Hurricane Joaquin, but a mechanical problem left the boat floundering in the storm’s path, the owner of the ship said, according to The Associated Press.

Phil Greene, president and CEO of ship owner Tote Services Inc., told the AP that the captain planned to move ahead of Joaquin — with room to spare.

“Regrettably, he suffered a mechanical problem with his main propulsion system, which left him in the path of the storm,” Greene told the AP.

“We do not know when his engine problems began to occur, nor the reasons for his engine problems.”

El Faro was carrying a crew of 28 Americans and five Polish nationals.

The container ship was headed from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it disappeared near the Bahamas last week.

At the time, Joaquin was pummeling the area with 130-mph winds.

The U.S. Coast Guard has concluded the ship sank. Officials say they are now focused on trying to find survivors.

Lots of debris, but no survivors so far

The massive search in the Caribbean Sea has yielded a 225-square-mile debris field, but no ship and no survivors.

CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin accompanied a Coast Guard team on a daylong search flight Monday. The Coast Guard HC-130 covered more than 1,000 square miles of ocean without spotting anything related to the ship, McLaughlin said.

Family members told CNN affiliate WFOX/WSVN they questioned why the ship sailed into what was then a tropical storm.

The forecast changed significantly the day El Faro left port, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

That morning, Joaquin was forecast to be a tropical storm whose possible paths would not interfere with El Faro’s route. Near midday, the forecast was still for a tropical storm, but moving closer to the ship’s path.

At 5 p.m., the forecast showed that Joaquin would reach hurricane strength and that the ship’s path would take it straight into the track of the storm.

El Faro left the port of Jacksonville about 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to Marinetraffic.com.