Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘Cota’

October 26, 2008

Report: Cosco Busan pilot at fault for accident

Almost a year after the Cosco Busan left it’s deadly wake of oil spilled on San Francisco Bay, the pilot’s captain in charge of the ship has been ruled at fault.

Capt. John Cota “failed to exercise sound judgment,” the pilot commission ruled in a report released this week. Cota has already given up his license and is under a seven count indictment in Federal court of violating the law by spilling oil and killing federally protected birds.

Cota, 60 of Petaluma, CA was in charge of piloting the 900-foot container ship out of San Francisco Bay on November 7, 2007 when it smashed into the Bay Bridge. After side-swiping the bridge, the ship’s tanks carrying bunker oil were ruptured. The 50,000 gallon spill killed at least 2,500 birds.

“Oh, yeah, it’s so foggy. I shouldn’t have gone,” the Cota was recorded saying on the morning of the spill. “I’m not going to do well on this one.” The morning fog was thick during the 8:30 AM mishap.

The 65,000-ton ship, which was bound for Busan, South Korea, was moving at nearly 13 miles an hour when it hit the bridge tower.

IBRRC and other agencies worked feverishly following the spill to capture and save as many oiled birds as possible. More than 1,000 birds were brought to our bird center in Fairfield, CA. Only 421 were returned the wild. Some biologists estimate that some 20,000 birds ultimately died in the spill and may have died elsewhere or sunk in the bay.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle

April 23, 2008

Cosco Busan pilot slapped with felony charges

Another legal slap, this one serious, has been handed down to the Cosco Busan pilot who was in charge of navigating the container ship that struck the Bay Bridge and spilled 54,000 gallons of oil.

Today a federal grand jury added two felony counts of lying to the Coast Guard to an earlier indictment. The new charges stem from physical exams he took in January 2006 and January 2007 to renew his federal pilot’s license. In those exams, the pilot, John Cota, 60, of Petaluma, did not disclose the host of medications he was taking.

Because of the spill, thousands of birds perished in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many more are believed dead after the November 7, 2007 spill closed beaches in the bay and along the outer coastline in Marin County and at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle story online

April 9, 2008

NTSB: Pilot’s personal issues affected judgement

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing looking into the Cosco Busan oil spill, shed more light on the personal problems of the pilot captain that may have contributed to the disaster on San Francisco Bay.

The NTSB revealed that Capt. John Cota is an alcoholic who also was using prescription drugs during work hours to treat depression and sleep apnea.

“I wouldn’t want anyone taking those medicines and having to make decisions in a safety-sensitive position,” Dr. Robert Bourgeois told an NTSB panel on Wednesday.

With Cota piloting the 900-foot Cosco Busan, the ship struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog on November 7, 2007. It spilled toxic fuel oil into the bay that fouled the bay and killed at least 2,500 birds.

Cota through his attorney is refusing to testify at the panel’s hearing in Washington, DC this week. He is citing his 5th amendment right against self incrimination.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle story

March 22, 2008

Ship pilot pleads not guilty

John Cota, the pilot entrusted with navigating the container ship that struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of criminal negligence and violating environmental laws.

The 901-foot Cosco Busan ship side-swipped the bridge in November 2007 and spilled more than 50,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay. The corresponding spill left thousands of migratory birds coated with the gooey oil. At least 2,500 aquatic birds died in the spill and scientists speculate that thousands more succumbed and were never recovered.

See the San Francisco Chronicle story: Pilot at helm of Cosco Busan pleads not guilty