Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘pilot’

July 18, 2009

Cosco Busan ship pilot gets 10 months in jail

This week a federal judge finally sentenced the ship pilot to 10 months in prison for his responsibility in the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill in the San Francisco Bay that caused widespread bird deaths.

Capt. John Cota, 61, of Petaluma, CA is the first ship’s pilot in U.S. maritime history to be sent to prison for a shipping accident.

During a brief statement at the end of the hourlong hearing in Federal court Friday, Cota apologized to the judge and the public for the harm he had caused.

“Pilots view themselves as protectors of the environment,” he was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle story. “That’s why it is painful to have played a role in an accident that has damaged it.”

The ship’s pilot was helping guide the Cosco Busan container ship out of San Francisco Bay when it struck the SF Bay Bridge in heavy fog on an early morning in November 2007. More than 50,000 gallons of bunker crude spilled into the bay and spread to area beaches.

In sentencing Cota, Judge Illston told him the jail time reflects lawmakers efforts to punish criminally negiligent parties following the horrific Exxon Valdez spill.

Following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill of 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska, the tanker’s captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was fined only $50,000 but did’t spent any time in jail.

During the Cosco Busan spill thousands of birds were killed by the fast spreading spill. IBRRC working with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 420 birds that were returned to the wild.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle story

Also see: After the Cosco Busan spill

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

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

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

January 19, 2008

New revelations in spill: Ship pilot’s sleep disorder

More information has surfaced in the Cosco Busan’s collision with the San Francisco Bay Bridge and the subsequent spilling of 58,000 gallons. The latest investigation involves the ship pilot who has revealed he was under medication for sleep apnea, a disorder that causes a person’s breathing to become impaired leading to bouts of sleepiness.

John Cota, 59 was taking the drug Provigil that in some cases “may impair your judgment, thinking, or motor skills.” The warnings continue: “You should not drive a car or operate hazardous machinery until you know how this medication affects you.”

Cota was helping guidie the Cosco Busan out of San Francisco Bay when it side-swiped the bridge in dense fog on November 7, 2007. The bunker fuel that spilled from the 900-foot Hong Kong flagged container ship killed at least 2,500 birds and closed beaches and shoreline for weeks.

See AP story: Pilot’s sleep disorder investigated in SF oil spill