“We are heading straight into it, Category 3, last we checked,” wrote Danielle Randolph, a crew member of the ill-fated El Faro cargo ship, in an email to her mother, according to CNN affiliate WFOX. “Winds are super bad. Love to everyone.” This heartbreaking final message came just hours before news reports that the ship, which had departed Jacksonville for Puerto Rico in the early morning of Sept. 30 with 28 Americans and five Polish nationals aboard, had ceased all communications with shore. The El Faro was declared missing Oct. 2 and quickly became the subject of a massive search and recovery effort by the US Coast Guard in waters just northeast of the Bahamas Islands. That search ends at 7pm tonight. At the time of the ship’s departure, Tropical Storm Joaquin was several hundred miles to the east of El Faro’s location, but would be upgraded to a category 4 with 115-mph winds just days later. Final communication from the ship indicated heavy seas, extreme weather and reports that it was taking on water and listing 15 degrees. Listing means that the ship was leaning to one side due to damage to the hull. Shortly thereafter El Faro was swallowed up, sinking 15,000 feet into the ocean, US Coast Guard officials say. According to TOTE Maritime, the New Jersey-based company that owns the 40-year-old ship, Captain Michael Davidson sent an email indicating that he understood the weather condition that was out in front of him…and that he had a sound plan, that the crew was well prepared and briefed. But an as-yet-unexplained power loss caused the ship’s main propulsion to fail, leaving the crew stranded in the storm’s path. Thus far, Coast Guard search and recovery crews have located the body of one crewmember and a battered lifeboat in a 225-mile debris field. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating in Jacksonville. Here at Harrell and Harrell, our thoughts are with the victims and families affected by this tragedy. If you are affected by the loss of the El Faro and have questions about how to move forward legally, our dedicated maritime accident attorneys stand ready to help. Reach us at 904-251-1111 in Northeast Florida or toll-free at 800-251-1111.