Crew acquitted in Spain's 2002 Prestige oil disaster

Crew aquitted in Spain's 2002 Prestige oil disaster

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A judge Wednesday acquitted crew members and a top maritime official of causing a massive oil spill from a tanker off Spain in 2002, one of Europe's worst environmental disasters.

The Spanish court however sentenced the 78-year-old Greek captain of the Prestige oil tanker to nine months in prison for resisting attempts to tow the wreck away from shore before it spilled its load, killing tens of thousands of seabirds.

Eleven years to the day after the Prestige made its first distress call, the court ruled that neither Captain Apostolos Mangouras nor the Spanish maritime chief who ordered it out to sea were to blame for the vast oil slick that followed.

When it broke in two after six days damaged and adrift, the Prestige spilled 63,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the sea, coating beaches in Spain, France and Portugal with black gunk. (AFP)

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