JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Deep seas may complicate efforts to find the sunken U.S. cargo ship lost off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin, a federal safety investigator said, as a search-and-rescue mission for 32 missing crew stretched into a sixth day.

A U.S. National Transportation Safety Board team arrived on Tuesday in Jacksonville, Florida, the port the El Faro departed from last week en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship disappeared in what maritime experts have called the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years.

The ship was captained by Michael Davidson of Windham, a 1988 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy. Its crew included Danielle Randolph, 34, of Rockland, Maine, a 2005 MMA graduate; Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton, Maine, a 2012 graduate; and Dylan Meklin, 23, a 2010 graduate of Rockland High School who graduated from Maine Maritime in May.

The Florida Times-Union continues to update a partial list of crew members confirmed to be on board the El Faro.

Before leaving Washington, NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr said the investigation would be difficult given that the ship sank in an unknown location, possibly in waters 15,000 feet deep. Its last known location was off Crooked Island in the Bahamas.

“It’s a big challenge when there’s such a large area of water and at such depth,” Dinh-Zarr said. “We hope for the best and that the ship will be recovered.”

On Monday, the ship’s owner, Tote Inc., said the New Jersey-based company would “cooperate fully” with the NTSB.

“All the information that we have will be made available to them,” said Tote President and CEO Anthony Chiarello. “We will find out what happened.”

In addition, “TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico plans to hire an independent third party maritime firm to conduct a safety assessment, which will be made public once completed,” according to Mike Hanson, spokesman for the company.

Tote told reporters in Jacksonville the El Faro was undergoing engine room work before it sank off the Bahamas.

The U.S. Coast Guard said its air and sea crews had yet to find any survivors from the ship. Only the body of one presumed crew member has been found so far.

The ship was crewed by 28 U.S. citizens, as well as five Polish nationals who were members of a “riding gang” commonly hired to perform repairs and maintenance.

After meeting with relatives of the crew late Monday, Tote Inc. executives told reporters that they did not believe the engine room work played a role in the vessel’s sinking.

But officials have acknowledged there is scant chance of finding survivors given El Faro disappeared in ferocious winds and seas up to 50 feet high.

Dinh-Zarr said finding the sunken ship would be “a big challenge” but it had not been ruled out. Doing so would allow investigators to retrieve the vessel’s black box voyage data recorder, which preserves the last 12 hours of engine orders and communications from the bridge.

The NTSB also will check the ship’s maintenance records and other paperwork, Dinh-Zarr told reporters.

She said investigators hope to find as much material as possible amid two large debris fields strewn with items from El Faro. So far the Coast Guard has reported seeing a life raft, life jackets, life rings and cargo containers amid white polystyrene packing foam bobbing in the ocean.

The 790-foot ship was piled high with containers and also was weighed down with trailers and automobiles below deck, according to Coast Guard officials.

The El Faro left Jacksonville on the night of Sept. 29, just after U.S. forecasters warned that then-Tropical Storm Joaquin was poised to strengthen into a hurricane.

Its crew issued a distress call about 36 hours later, saying it had lost propulsion, was listing and had taken on water after sailing into the path of Joaquin. It was never heard from again.

Tote officials told a news conference Monday night they did not believe the engine room work underway on El Faro was related to the propulsion problem reported in the distress call.

Philip Greene, a retired rear admiral who heads the ship management subsidiary Tote Services, said engine failure sealed the fate of El Faro, however, making it impossible to steer in the face of a brutal storm.

“I think what’s regrettable in this is the fact the vessel did become disabled in the path of the storm, and that is what led to ultimately the tragedy,” Greene said.

Tote has offered no official explanation as to how the ship managed to get caught in the center of a Category 4 hurricane instead of taking evasive measures to move out of the storm’s projected path.

But Hanson said Saturday that Joaquin was only a tropical storm when El Faro set out from Jacksonville, but it later underwent a rapid intensification.

Records show that the U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a warning about the likelihood of Joaquin becoming a hurricane at 5 p.m. Tuesday, however, nearly three hours before El Faro left port.

Many of El Faro’s crew were from Jacksonville, and there are signs of deep-rooted anger there about what happened to the ill-fated vessel.

“I blame the captain and the company,” said Terrence Meadows, 36, a merchant marine junior engineer from the northern Florida port city who spoke outside the Seafarers International Union hall Monday.

“That could have been me out there. Anybody in that union hall could have been out there,” Meadows said. “My heart is broken. I can only imagine what those guys were going through. You don’t sign up to die like that,” he added.

Seafarers International is the main North American union representing merchant mariners.

John Kimball, who teaches admiralty law at New York University School of Law, said it is premature to say what liabilities Tote could face for the loss of crew and cargo.

But New York City-based lawyer Andrew Buchsbaum, who handles maritime personal injury cases, said that since the ship was owned by a U.S. company and sailing to a U.S. port, families of the mariners could try to sue under a federal law called the Jones Act, which holds shippers liable for negligence and if a vessel is not seaworthy.

“It’s incomprehensible with the sophisticated weather routing technology that’s available that an over 700-foot merchant vessel can be caught in the middle of a previously forecasted hurricane,” he said.

Tote’s Hanson said he could not speculate when asked Monday if El Faro had a propulsion or engine room problem before it was overcome by the hurricane.

“We look forward to what the investigation reveals,” he said.

BDN writer Beth Brogan contributed to this report.

Additional reporting by Susan Cooper Eastman in Jacksonville and Edward McAllister and Andrew Chung in New York.