December 19, 2008

Jealousy Had Role In Massive Oil Spill

Explosive testimony in the case surrounding a massive oil spill in New Orleans during July revealed that jealousy was partly to blame for the disastrous events.

The master pilot, who should have been at the wheel of a tugboat that steered an oil barge into an oncoming ship on July 23, was chasing down his girlfriend instead.

It happened along a stretch of the Mississippi River near New Orleans that had to be shut down for days to be cleaned up. The accident spilled 420,000 gallons of fuel oil into the river.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper reported that master pilot Terry Carver testified that on July 20 his nephew called to tell him that he had spotted Carver's girlfriend riding around in another man's truck. Carver said he then left the tugboat to investigate the rumor in the state of Illinois.

Apprentice mate John Bavaret was left in charge of the towboat Mel Oliver due to Carver's departure.

Carver was tracking the progress of the tugboat through his cell phone and was informed by a deck hand that "they got hit by a ship," Carver said.

The collision shut down a 97-mile stretch of the key commercial trading link for days.

The U.S. Coast Guard was responsible for cleaning up tons of the foul-smelling fuel oil.

Coast Guard spokesman Stephen Lehmann said the tugboat operator had only an apprentice mate's license, and no one else on the vessel had a license to operate the boat on the river.

Under federal rules, the operator should have had a master's license to operate a tugboat.