New snag in Norman Atlantic probe as data files found destroyed

Italian investigators looking into the causes of a deadly blaze on the Norman Atlantic ferry as it sailed from Greece in December are seeking expert help to recover any traces of audio evidence that may have been salvaged on the ship’s data recorder, which was almost entirely destroyed in the blaze, Italian media reported on Monday.

Corriere della Sera newspaper said that investigators are unlikely to glean any significant information from the Norman Atlantic’s black box to explain the conflagration that started on the vehicle deck of the Greek-owned passenger ferry in the early hours of December 28 as it sailed to the Italian port of Ancona.

Nine passengers are known to have perished in the fire as well as two Albanian rescue workers. Of the nine confirmed victims, three have been identified as Greeks. Authorities say that 18 people are still classed as missing, though the number may be higher if there were stowaways on board.

Investigators are unlikely to determine whether there is a case of criminal negligence without the data recordings. Passengers had said in the aftermath of the tragedy that evacuation orders were delayed and garbled.

The search for bodies which may be trapped on the vehicle deck has been hampered by the extensive damage caused to that part of the ship. It took search crews more than a month to enter that part of the vessel due to high temperatures and toxic fumes, while they are still trying to sort through the large masses of melted metal that many of the vehicles on the lower deck were reduced to.

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