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Air crews searching for El Faro ship spot objects in water, recover life ring

UPDATE: Search and rescue teams have spotted multiple objects in the water where crews are searching for the El Faro, the American cargo ship that went missing after encountering heavy weather from Hurricane Joaquin on Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a press release.

As the search entered its third day on Sunday, aircrews reported seeing life jackets, life rings, containers and an oil sheen in the water.

The Coast Guard said the objects have not yet been confirmed to be from the lost vessel.

“The debris is scattered about over several miles,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss told Reuters. “It’s going to take some time to verify. The items would appear to be consistent with the missing ship.”

On Saturday, air crews had recovered three life rings in waters about 75 miles from the ship’s last known position. One of the rings was confirmed to be from the lost vessel.

The owners of the El Faro, Tote Maritime, said in a statement Sunday that two ships sent to the search area found a container “which appears to be from the El Faro.”

According to Tote Maritime, there has been no sighting of the missing vessel or any life boats in the vicinity.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the 33 individuals aboard the ship and their families,” Tote Maritime Puerto Rico president Tim Nolan said.

PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander of the Coast Guard 7th District, receives an update brief for the missing cargo ship El Faro at the Coast Guard 7th District in Miami Oct. 3, 2015. Coast Guard search crews have covered more than 850 square nautical miles in the search for the El Faro crew. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon-Paul Rios)

Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander of the Coast Guard 7th District, receives an update brief for the missing cargo ship El Faro at the Coast Guard 7th District in Miami Oct. 3, 2015. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon-Paul Rios

Original report (published Oct. 3):

Aircrews resumed the search early Saturday for an American cargo ship, the El Faro, which was missing near Crooked Island in the Bahamas, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a press release.

The 735-foot vessel was carrying 28 American and five Polish citizens when the crew issued a distress call on Thursday.

As of Saturday, the El Faro had not been heard from for more than 48 hours.

The El Faro is shown in this undated handout photo provided by Tote Maritime in Jacksonville, Florida, October 2, 2015. The U.S. Coast Guard said on Friday it was searching for the 735-foot cargo ship with 33 crew members aboard reported to be caught in the powerful Hurricane Joaquin near Crooked Island, Bahamas. The container ship El Faro was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida when the Coast Guard received a satellite notification that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing heavily. The crew reported flooding had been contained. REUTERS/Tote Maritime/Handout via Reuters    ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES.

The El Faro is shown in this undated handout photo. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for the 735-foot cargo ship with 33 crew members aboard reported to be caught in the powerful Hurricane Joaquin. Photo credit: Tote Maritime/Handout via Reuters

The container ship departed Jacksonville, Florida, on Sept. 29 and was headed toward San Juan, Puero Rico, when it became caught in stormy weather triggered by Hurricane Joaquin.

Before losing communication with authorities, the crew reported the ship had lost propulsion and was leaning to one side.

A Coast Guard pilot searching for the missing El Faro container ship, near the eye of hurricane Joaquin, recounts the weather conditions Oct. 3, 2015. The Coast Guard has been searching since Oct. 1, after losing communications with the El Faro. Still from U.S. Coast Guard video.

View from the cockpit as the Coast Guard searched for the missing El Faro container ship on Oct. 3, 2015. The Coast Guard has been searching since Oct. 1, after losing communications with the El Faro. Still from U.S. Coast Guard video

The Coast Guard said search teams had scoured more than 850 square nautical miles looking for the El Faro on Friday, but the search operation was hampered by significant waves and hurricane-force winds.

In a video posted to the Coast Guard’s Southeast’s twitter feed, Coast Guard pilot Lt Dustin Burton said crews searching for the lost vessel were dealing with very limited visibility and wave heights in excess of 40 feet.

“This was the most challenging weather conditions anyone on our crew had ever flown in,” he said.

Despite the challenges posed by the stormy weather, air crews found three life rings in waters about 75 miles from the ship’s last known position, the Coast Guard said Saturday.

One of the life rings was confirmed to belong to the El Faro.

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