Harsh Realities of a Coast Guard Search

Published on October 6th, 2015

When the U.S. Coast Guard found, and then left, a body believed to be from the lost 790-foot cargo ship El Faro, many may have been confused. Leaving the body means almost certainly leaving it forever and the absence of real closure for a family. It almost feels…cruel. The harsh reality is that bringing the body to shore would have been even more so.

“Our focus is on survivors. That’s our mission,” said Captain Mark Fedor in a press conference. Fedor was talking about the need to move on quickly to other reported targets that may be lost if delays occur. Nothing can be done for the dead, and trying may mean the death of others. It’s an awful decision to have to make.

Leaving the body behind underscores what separates the El Faro search from the average rescue mission: the 32 others that they still hope to find.

Finding a single body in a survival suit means the Coast Guard has to assume that 32 people are somewhere in the open water and spread out over hundreds of square miles and getting farther apart every hour.

The El Faro case has gone from a search for a single big thing to 32 very small things. This isn’t a needle in a haystack. This is 32 needles in an ever-growing hay field. This search has become more complex than any in recent memory.

Though all are hoping that survivors made it to the other life boat or into a raft, until they find a raft or another life boat those searching will not assume so, and will be in what can only be described as a controlled mad scramble. – gCaptain, full story

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