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Two moored, life-size, weighted mannequins dressed in Coleman-Stearns Model ISS-590i Adult Universal buoyant immersion suits were observed twice daily from June 8-23, 2016, in tests to determine if extended time in water affected the suits’ flotation capability. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

RDC Assists In SS El Faro Investigation

The Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) tested the flotation capabilities of immersion suits this past summer to help with a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) review of the October 2015 sinking of the SS El Faro. The MBI was reviewing why recovery crews could not locate the remains of a victim in an immersion suit that searchers had spotted earlier.

The RDC devised tests to determine the extent of water intrusion into the suits over an extended period of time and its effect on flotation capability. The tests used weighted mannequins in the same type of immersion suits the El Faro carried and were conducted at the RDC’s Joint Maritime Test Facility in Mobile, Alabama.

The tethered but free-floating mannequins were in the water for a two-week period. Testing after the mannequins were retrieved showed minimal water intrusion with little to no effect on the immersion suits’ flotation capabilities.

The full RDC report is available here.