Deborah Dyer, right, is hugged by Judy Marzolf at vigil held at Maine Maritime Academy for the missing crew members of the U.S. container ship El Faro, Oct. 6, 2015, in Castine, Maine.
Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP

El Faro owner settles with families of sunken ship’s crew members


The families of 10 crew members who died when the cargo ship El Faro sank near the Bahamas last year have agreed to take $500,000 each to settle pending lawsuits against the vessel’s owner, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.

The settlement, filed in a federal court in Florida, covers fewer than a third of the 33 crew members who perished after the ship went missing Oct. 1 during Hurricane Joaquin. Cases involving the others presumably remain pending.

The settlement covers the families of crew members Keith Griffin, Piotr Krause, Roan Lightfoot, Marcin Nita, Jan Podgorski, Richard Pusatere, Howard P. Schoenly, Andrej Truszkowski, Rafal Zdobych and Michael Davidson, according to court documents.

Dena Lightfoot whose husband of 19 years, boatswain Roan Lightfoot, was lost when the cargo ship foundered, told NBC News that she’s just glad the ordeal is over.

“I didn’t want to go to a court trial or anything like that,” she said. “I just didn’t want to go through anymore crap.”

But she said that the $500,000 settle did not bring her closure. “I still have the same damn dream, he’s back and he wants his money,” she said breaking into tears.

“But I have to stay strong,” she explained. “I have my two kids. I find myself going into my closet to cry so they won’t hear me.”

RELATED: ‘El Faro’ wreckage found at the bottom of ocean

TOTE spokesman Mike Hanson said the agreement is part of the company’s attempt to reach “fair and swift legal settlements for those who may choose them.”

Hanson added, “We stress that our support of all the families will continue.”

TOTE angered victims’ families in November, when it tried to block them from suing, saying it should be shielded from liability because it had “exercised due diligence” to ensure El Faro’s seaworthiness.

But some have said the 790-foot ship was overdue for repairs and that TOTE knew of structural deficiencies before it set out from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 29.

Regardless of the legal wrangling, Lightfoot said the occasional media reports are the most difficult thing deal with, especially the portraits of all the crew members.

“Every time they put all these people’s pictures on the TV, it brings it all back,” she said.

Carolina Gonzalez contributed to this article.

This article originally appeared on

Hurricane Joaquin and Puerto Rico

El Faro owner settles with families of sunken ship's crew members