Bar Pilot Who Lost Job For Hitting Bay Bridge Sues To Return To Waters

Disgraced ex-bar pilot wants a return of his mariner's license.

By Chris Roberts
|  Monday, Feb 11, 2013  |  Updated 11:51 AM PDT
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The bar pilot who lost his job after he piloted a cargo ship into the Bay Bridge in 2007 has sued the Coast Guard to get his job back.

John Cota, 65, of Petaluma, served 10 months in prison and lost his pilot's license after he was found to have been sailing too fast in heavy fog and was impaired by prescription drugs when the Cosco Busan slammed into a tower of the Bay Bridge in 2007, according to reports. The accident spilled over 50,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the Bay and killed more than 6,800 birds, according to reports.

Cota retired as a pilot rather than lose his license and now collects $228,864 a year via a pension, the San Jose Mercury News reported. But he still had a merchant marine license, which is issued through the Coast Guard, who seized that paperwork in 2010. And it's that license he is seeking back via a lawsuit filed in federal court on Friday.

Cota wants to go back to work "as a tugboat captain or something else," said his attorney, John Meadows, who declared the former pilot "a healthy man," according to the newspaper.

Bar pilots earn up to $451,000 a year, according to the newspaper. Cota had been a San Francisco Bay bar pilot since 1981.

Another ship, an empty tanker, hit the Bay Bridge last month, but no oil spilled.

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