The Crew that Tried to Save the SS El Faro

Helmsman Frank Hamm
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Helmsman Frank Hamm

Forty-nine-year-old Frank Hamm joined the Merchant Marine when he moved to the port city of Jacksonville, Florida, in 1995. He rose to the rank of able seaman, entrusted with physically steering a 31,000-ton ship. “He talked about the amazing career it was, how he loved to travel,” says his wife, Rochelle, adding that wherever Hamm would go, he’d collect a souvenir shot glass to display in his man cave at home. On land, Hamm doted on his five kids and three grandkids, and loved watching cartoons with the youngest. “The old-school ones,” laughs Rochelle, “Popeye, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo.”

In 2011, the helmsman had a career highlight: Hundreds of miles out at sea, he spotted a lone boat in the distance. The two fishermen aboard had lost power and been adrift for three days. Hamm’s keen vision saved their lives.

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