The freighter El Faro sank in Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas last week.

Fifth MMA graduate was on ill-fated ship



CASTINE A day after the Coast Guard announced it was suspending the search for crew members from the cargo ship El Faro, Maine Maritime Academy said Oct. 8 that a fifth graduate was a member of the ship’s crew.

Mitchell Kuflik, Class of 2011 and from Brooklyn, N.Y., was on board El Faro when it sailed from Florida last week, according to MMA President Bill Brennan.

Earlier reports indicated four MMA alumni were on board El Faro, a 790-foot cargo ship that was sailing from Jacksonville, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is believed to have sunk off of the Bahamas last week during Hurricane Joaquin.

Brennan issued a statement on Thursday morning that identified the five alumni who were on the El Faro’s crew. In addition to Kuflik, they are:

  • Captain Mike Davidson, Class of 1988, from Windham
  • Second Mate Danielle Randolph, Class of 2005, from Rockland
  • Mike Holland, Class of 2012, from North Wilton
  • Dylan Meklin, Class of 2015, from Rockland

“Our hearts are heavy,” said Brennan, who added that the “outpouring of fellowship and support of the entire maritime family is felt here in Castine.”

The ship had a crew of 33. One unidentified body of a crew member was found over the weekend.

The search for remaining crew members was suspended at sunset on Wednesday. In making the announcement, the Coast Guard said military planes and ships along with commercial tugboat crews had searched more than 183,000 square nautical miles off the Bahamian coast in a joint effort to locate El Faro and its crew.

Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander of the Coast Guard’s 7th District, called the decision to suspend the search “very difficult.”

“My deepest condolences go to the families, loved ones and friends of the El Faro crew,” he said. “U.S. Coast Guard, U.S Navy, U.S. Air Force and the Tote Maritime tug crews searched day and night, sometimes in perilous conditions, with the hope of finding survivors in this tragic loss.”

El Faro, a roll-on, roll-off cargo ship, departed Jacksonville on Tuesday, Sept. 29. At about 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, Coast Guard watchstanders were notified that El Faro was disabled in the path of Hurricane Joaquin, had lost propulsion and had a 15-degree list. The crew reported the ship had previously taken on water, but that all flooding had been contained.

The Coast Guard located a deceased person in a survival suit in the water Sunday night. A heavily damaged life boat with markings consistent with those on board El Faro also was located Sunday. Additional items located by search crews since Thursday include a partially submerged life raft, a survival suit, life jackets, life rings, cargo containers, Styrofoam, packaged food and an oil sheen.

MMA held a press conference Wednesday after the Coast Guard said it was suspending the search. Brennan said then that he had informed the MMA community that “the news we have been anxiously waiting to hear about the crew of the El Faro will not come.”

“Unfortunately, we are now faced with news that none of us wanted to hear,” he said.

Brennan said the thoughts of the MMA community have been and will continue to be with the families and loved ones of the crew members.

“Our community will grieve this together,” he said. “Our students know that I am here to support them, as are the staff and faculty and the wider community of Castine. We will stand together, and we will go on.”

Brennan said mariners know that while the sea is to be respected, it is not to be feared. He said that is why mariners train and prepare and that is why Maine Maritime Academy exists. He said the El Faro’s crew members are best honored by “steeling our individual and community resolve to educate and train for a world full of perils.”

“We have lost friends, colleagues and alumni,” he said. “We honor them best by continuing to commit to the excellence they bravely pursued. We honor them best by continuing to dedicate our diligence to that which was their passion.”

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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