A search team aboard the U.S. Navy ship Apache has found the wreckage of a vessel it believes to be the cargo ship El Faro, which went missing Oct. 1 during Hurricane Joaquin, claiming the lives of its 33 crew members.

The vessel was located at a depth of about 15,000 feet in the vicinity of the last known position, just off Crooked Island in the southern Bahamas, according to a news release issued Saturday evening by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A Navy salvage team prepared Sunday to launch a remotely operated submersible, known as CURV-21, to confirm the wreckage is that of the El Faro. The team’s mission is to document the shipwreck and any debris field, and to retrieve the sunken vessel’s voyage data recorder — similar to an airplane’s black box — as part of an investigation into its loss, according to the NTSB.

If human remains are encountered during the submersible operation the Navy will attempt to recover them, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.

It was unclear Sunday what plans were in place to recover remains of the crew. The wreck site is at a depth of nearly 3 miles beneath the surface, far beyond the reach of divers, Knudson said.

The last communication between the 790-foot steamship and the mainland was made at 7:20 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, while en route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cargo carrier lost propulsion and was listing after encountering Hurricane Joaquin north of San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, the captain said in his request for help.

The ship was captained by Michael Davidson, 53, of Windham, a 1988 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy. Other crew members with Maine connections include Danielle Randolph, 34, of Rockland and a 2004 graduate of Maine Maritime; Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton, a 2012 graduate of Maine Maritime; and Dylan Meklin, 23, a 2010 graduate of Rockland District High School and a 2015 graduate of Maine Maritime.

Sophisticated sonar equipment towed from Apache first detected what are believed to be images of the vessel using Orion, a side-scanning sonar system, at about 1:36 p.m. Saturday during the fifth of 13 planned search line surveys.

The target identified by Orion is consistent with a 790-foot cargo ship, which from sonar images appears to be in an upright position and in one piece.

Shortly after the National Transportation Safety Board opened its investigation into the accident, it contracted with the U.S. Navy to locate the missing ship, document the wreckage and debris field, and if possible recover the voyage data recorder.

Apache departed Little Creek, Virginia, on Oct. 19 after being fitted with a state-of-the-art underwater detection equipment. On Oct. 23, after arriving at the last known position of El Faro, specialists on Apache placed a towed pinger locator into the water and began slowly traversing the area according to a preset search pattern in hopes of picking up sounds of the pinger from El Faro’s voyage data recorder.

After three days without any indication of a pinger signal, the locater was withdrawn from the ocean and Orion was put in the water in an attempt to locate El Faro with sonar technology, which creates sonar images from the processing of sound patterns.

If the vessel is confirmed to be El Faro, CURVE-21, outfitted with a video camera, will start the documentation of the vessel and the debris field and attempt to locate and recover the voyage data recorder. Those operations are expected to take up to 15 days to complete in ideal conditions but may take longer depending on weather and conditions encountered during the documentation process.

The voyage data recorder attached to the aft of the ship’s bridge is designed to be removable by a remotely controlled device, according to shipping experts. It preserves the last 12 hours of engine orders and communications from the bridge and could provide vital clues as to why the ship sank.

Reuters contributed to this report.