Investigators explain why the investigation into Monday's side-swiping of the Bay Bridge by an oil tanker is so important. Jodi Hernandez reports.
The Coast Guard on Tuesday interviewed the pilot of the oil tanker that nicked the Bay Bridge late Monday morning, but did not release the results of that conversation.
Coast Guard spokeswoman Pamela Boehland said that interview - and others - are not ready to be made public at this point, as the fact-finding mission is part of the "ongoing investigation."
The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday named Barry Strauch as the investigator in charge of the accident, which didn't cause any physical or environmental damage. Still, the NTSB called the accident a "major marine casualty," because the damage to the tanker and the base of a floating portion of the bridge cost more than $500,000.
The pilot, identified as Guy Kleess of San Francisco, has already passed an alcohol test, and his drug results are pending, the Coast Guard said.
The Mercury News first reported that Kleess, a former Exxon oil tanker captain, was involved in at least three other shipping accidents since 2009. According to state records, also obtained by NBC Bay Area, Kleess ran aground a 550-foot cargo ship in Sacramento, crashed a 600-foot cargo ship near Stockton, and in 2010, was found at fault when a tugboat he was sailing ran aground in the Richmond inner harbor.
His 750-foot oil tanker, the Overseas Reymar, did not cause any major damage or injuries when it struck of the Bay Bridge towers late Monday morning. Coast Guard officials said the tanker essentially scraped the base of the so-called "Echo Tower," or Tower 6, on the far east side of the bridge's western span around 11:20 a.m.. The visibility at the time was about a quarter mile. The vessel had dropped off products in Martinez, officials said and was heading out to sea.
Coast Guard Lt. Commander Shawn Lansing said there was no "spill or discharge into the water," and everyone aboard was safe. Also, Bay Bridge traffic never stopped.
Still, Lansing said, investigators are looking at the integrity of the ship, to make there is no extensive, internal structural damage. There was no damage to the Bay Bridge. The boat suffered a slight fender-bender on the starboard side of the ship, seen in the image below to the right .
But the most important thing to remember, Ney added emphatically: "The Bay Bridge is safe." He described the whole affair as a "scrape."
While this incident did not appear to wreak much havoc, the proximity of a tanker so close the Bay Bridge brought up immediate memories of the Cocso Busan.
That huge spill occurred on Nov. 7 2007, when more than 53,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the San Francisco bay, after the container ship, the Cosco Busan, struck the Delta Tower of the Bay Bridge in thick fog.
Investigators in that case found that pilot John Cota was impaired from his use of prescription pharmaceuticals. He was sentenced to ten months in federal prison. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency, releasing a flow of funds to clean up the major environmental damage.
Kleess' resume was made public Tuesday by the San Francisco Bar Pilots group, of which he was a member since 2005.
According to the resume, Kleess graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy of Kings Point, N.Y., in 1976, graduating with dual majors in both the engine and deck departments. He received a Third Mates Unlimited License and also a Third Engineers Steam and Diesel Any Horsepower License upon graduation.
He worked at the Exxon Shipping Co. from 1976 to 1990, starting as a third mate and working his way up to captain. He worked at Boston Ocean Carriers from 1990 to 1991 as a captain on a 265,000 dead-weight tonnage tanker. And he worked at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port from 1991 to 2003.
He was admitted to the San Francisco Bar Pilots Training Program in October 2003, and completed the program in October 2005. Kleess has also been with the port of Stockton and Sacramento since 2009. He's made 1,160 trips as a pilot since 2005.
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