JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday it was ending its search for the missing crew of an American cargo ship that sank off the Bahamas last week after sailing into the path of powerful Hurricane Joaquin.
The air and sea search for possible survivors would end at sunset on Wednesday night, six days after communication was lost with the ship and the 33 people aboard, Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor told a news conference in Jacksonville, Florida.
Maritime experts have called the sinking of Tote Maritime Puerto Rico's El Faro on its weekly run from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico, the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years.
The El Faro container ship is believed to have sunk after it suffered engine failure and was caught in the path of Joaquin last Thursday off the southern Bahamas.
Officials had acknowledged that chances of finding survivors were remote, given that the 790-foot (240-meter) El Faro disappeared in the middle of a ferocious storm with high seas whipped up by winds of 130 miles (215 km) per hour.
So far, the body of only one presumed crew member has been found, amid two large debris fields strewn with life jackets, cargo containers and white polystyrene packing foam.
Federal safety officials began an investigation on Tuesday into what maritime experts have called the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years.
A U.S. National Transportation Safety Board official, spearheading the investigation, has said deep seas would likely hamper attempts to find the ship and its 28 American crew members and five Polish contractors.