SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The pilot of an empty oil tanker that side-swiped the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in January made a risky course change at the last minute and should have his license revoked or suspended, a report released on Thursday concluded.
The report by a committee of the California Board of Pilot Commissioners found pilot Guy Kleess became complacent and failed to effectively communicate with the crew of the 752-foot Overseas Reymar.
"Capt. Kleess lost awareness of what was happening around him and how information, events and his own actions impacted his objectives," the report said.
Kleess did not use "ordinary care of an expert in his profession" when maneuvering the ship and committed misconduct, the report concluded.
The committee recommended the board find for pilot error in the Jan. 7 bridge strike. The board was expected to take up the recommendation later in the day.
A message left at Kleess's home was not immediately returned.
The report states that Kleess changed course because of reduced visibility and the discovery that a radar beacon between two towers of the bridge was not working. The U.S. Coast Guard previously said the ship had been warned it was off course.
The tower's wooden fenders were damaged in the crash, but the bridge remained open. No oil was spilled and there were no injuries.
The U.S. Coast Guard is also investigating the incident.
Kleess' attorney, Rex Clack, has said the pilot was well-rested and had been off-duty for 39 hours before boarding the tanker at 10:30 a.m., about an hour before the crash.
Kleess and the crew tested negative for alcohol and drug use, according to the Coast Guard.
Bar pilots are required by state law to guide every large vessel in the San Francisco Bay and other Northern California waterways.
Kleess had lost his pilot license between Nov. 9, 2010, and Jan. 11, 2011, after going on medical leave, board records show.
Records also indicate Kleess was involved in three previous accidents. He was held responsible for two and ordered to undergo more training after a ship he was piloting damaged a dock in Stockton in 2009.
It was the second-time since 2007 a large vessel controlled by a local pilot struck the Bay Bridge.
A cargo ship operated by Capt. John Cota hit the bridge on a foggy morning in November 2007, spilling 53,000 gallons of oil into the bay.
Cota later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors environmental charges and was sentenced to 10 months in prison. The companies that owned and operated the cargo ship paid a combined $60 million to settle lawsuits and criminal charges.
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