How the Emergency Suits On Board El Faro Cargo Ship Work

The ship had 46 such suits on board when it reportedly sank.

ByMEGHAN KENEALLY
October 5, 2015, 4:44 PM

— -- The survival suits that were on board the cargo ship that is believed to have sunk near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin are more specialized than just normal life jackets.

The immersion suits, dubbed 'Gumby' suits after their visual similarities to the claymation character, inflate and are intended to help keep the wearer upright while in the water and prevent hypothermia.

PHOTO: These immersion suits are intended to keep the wearer upright and protect them from hypothermia while in the water.
These immersion suits are intended to keep the wearer upright and protect them from hypothermia while in the water.
ABC News

"You can stay warmer a little longer cause even in warm water conditions you are susceptible to hypothermia and there’s only so long you can survive in the ocean," Coast Guard chief of response Capt. Mark Fedor said at a press conference today.

Fedor said that there were 46 suits on board the ship, El Faro, which had 33 crew members at the time that the distress signal was sent out Thursday morning.

PHOTO: These immersion suits are intended to keep the wearer upright and protect them from hypothermia while in the water.
These immersion suits are intended to keep the wearer upright and protect them from hypothermia while in the water.
ABC News

The search and rescue teams looked into "multiple reports" of the suits in the water, and they "checked those methodically through the day" on Sunday when conditions permitted an effective search.

Rescue teams saw "less than a handful" of the suits floating in the search zone. There were "human remains" in one of the suits but the body was unidentifiable.

ABC News' Linzie Janis and Bartley Price contributed to this report.

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