Tuesday, August 24, 2010

COSCO Busan Pilot Freed From Custody

The pilot who was at the helm of the COSCO Busan when the container vessel struck the Oakland Bay Bridge in November 2007 and leaked more than 53,000 gallons of diesel oil into San Francisco Bay, has been released from custody after serving a 10-month sentence.

John Cota was released on Aug. 16 after serving four months in a minimum-security facility in Arizona, five months in a San Francisco halfway house and a month under home confinement.

Cota, who faced numerous federal charges in the wake of the Busan allision and subsequent fuel oil leak that killed thousands of birds, closed dozens of beaches and affected local commercial fishing, eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to illegal dumping and killing of federally-protected birds. Under the plea agreement, federal prosecutors dropped more serious charges that Cota lied to US Coast Guard officials about his medical condition.

As part of his 2009 sentence, Cota will now face a year of supervised release under which he will be restricted from leaving the state.

A National Transportation Safety Board review of the incident concluded that Cota's use of a wide variety of prescriptions drugs led to an impaired condition that resulted in the Busan's allision with the bridge in heavy fog.

The Coast Guard pulled Cota's pilot's license shortly after the Busan incident and Cota formally resigned as a pilot in 2008.