The cargo ship El Faro sank off the Bahamas on Oct. 1, 2015 after running head-on into Hurricane Joaquin; all 33 crewmembers died. (US Navy photo)

It likely will be months before the National Transportation Safety Board can retrieve the voyage data recorder from the cargo ship El Faro, which sank last fall about 40 miles northeast of the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin and claimed the lives of 33, including two with Hampton Roads ties.

The data recorder could contain important clues about what happened before the ship sank, including audio from the navigation bridge and information about the El Faro’s speed and heading. Searchers discovered the basketball-sized data recorder Tuesday in about 15,000 feet of water, more than six months after the 790-foot U.S. flagged ship sank Oct. 1 on its way from Jacksonville, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico. A team aboard the Virginia Beach-based Navy vessel USNS Apache first located the ship in November.

The NTSB said in a statement that investigators who found the data recorder aren’t able to retrieve it because they don’t have the right equipment to do it aboard their research vessel Atlantis, which is owned by the Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. The data recorder is attached to a steel beam that’s connected to the mast structure, which is resting about 1,500 feet from the rest of the El…

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