Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

March 18, 2008

Pilot captain in Cosco Busan oil spill charged

The pilot boat captain responsible for helping navigate the container ship Cosco Busan that struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge and spilling thousands of gallons of oil that ultimately killed 2,500 birds, has been charged in federal court.

On Monday, Capt. John J. Cota of Petaluma was charged with two environmental laws, including violating the Clean Water Act through criminal negligence and of killing birds, a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The 60 year-old Cota was in charge of navigating the 901-foot container ship out of San Francisco Bay on the morning of November 7, 2007 when it ran into the Bay Bridge in heavy fog. More than 50,000 gallons of bunker crude oil spewed out of the side of the ship. The oil spill closed beaches, coated birds with toxic crude and left a swath of oil from Oakland estuaries to Richardson Bay to outside the Golden Gate Bridge.

IBRRC’s Executive Director, Jay Holcomb issued a statement yesterday after the charges came down in San Francisco:

“We are happy to hear that the Federal government is taking the Cosco Busan oil spill disaster seriously, said Holcomb. “We hope that the pilot of the ship will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and send the message that in this day and age this kind of preventable accident is unacceptable.”

In the meantime, Cota had his pilot’s license suspended by a state pilot commission after it concluded that “pilot error” was the cause of the crash.

The bird rescue center helped treat hundreds of birds after the spill. Over 421 were cleaned of oil, banded and released back into the wild. IBRRC depends on the public’s support for all its year-round bird rehabilitation programs. Donate

Read more:

San Francisco Chronicle story

Video report:

Associated Press story from YouTube

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