Rochelle Hamm says El Faro tragedy is painful, but she is turning her pain into a mission

El Faro victim's wife speaks to Ken Amaro

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There's a new addition to the El Faro Memorial Park. Bollards with chains symbolically connecting the names and pictures of the El Faro Crew were installed and added more poignancy to the park.

Frank Hamm is one of them. Recently, his wife Rochelle read the 510 page transcript of El Faro's final 26 hours.

"It was the most painful thing I've ever had to read in my life," she said. While it was anonymous, no names, Hamm said she was able to identify Frank and heard his last words.

"At one point Frank was screaming and crying out for help, 'don't leave me, bring me alive,'" she said, "And that tells me part of his body was under water. What he was asking for was for the captain to throw him a line."

Her eyes filled with tears, Hamm described her anguish. "Reading the transcript clearly identify that there was no way," she said, "the life boats were not working at all."

She said her husband was steering the ship during those final hours. "He continued to do exactly what the captain told him to do; he did not lose focus," she said. "As for me, Hamm Alert is my focus."

Now, she's turning her pain into a mission called the Hamm Alert. It is an early warning system for the shipping industry.

"Ships already have a water line that is completely ignored," she said. "If there's a Hamm Alert on these ships, the alarm will sound off when it is overloaded in order to stop it, you have to take some stuff off."

Hamm has met with congressional members and has gained more than 11,000 signatures for her Hamm Alert petition.

"I'm going where ever it takes for me to go," Hamm said. There's no rest until there's change in the shipping industry to make it safer for everyone, she said.

"Frank and the crew members were not on a vacation," said Hamm. "They went to work and did not return home from work."

She said recently two of her children told her they wanted to follow her Frank's footsteps and her response was adamant.

"I told them absolutely not," said Hamm. "Not until I can do what I need to do to make this happen."

As we approach the start of another hurricane season, Hamm said she will whatever she can to be sure what happened to El Faro does not happen again.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigations concluded its third round of hearings into the accident.

It may be a year before it release its findings. Hamm is confident it will bring change to the maritime industry.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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