Last updated: February 20. 2013 1:26AM - 182 Views

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(AP) An empty oil tanker that crashed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was warned prior to striking the bridge tower, the Coast Guard said.


The nature of the warning remained undisclosed, but the Coast Guard said in a statement late Tuesday that a dispatcher with the Vessel Traffic Service, which monitors large ship traffic on San Francisco Bay, warned the tanker before it scraped the bridge Monday.


Investigators were examining the recorded conversation between the ship and dispatcher along with a host of other factors, Coast Guard spokesman Dan Dewell said Wednesday.


No further details about the warning will be released until the investigation is complete, he said.


The Coast Guard has classified the crash of the 752-foot Overseas Reymar as a major marine casualty because property damage exceeded $500,000.


Dozens of feet of a protective fender wrapped around the support tower were damaged, but Caltrans said no structural damage was done to the bridge.


In addition, no oil leaks were reported and the bridge remained open. No crew members were injured.


The ship was being piloted by San Francisco bar pilot Guy Kleess, who has been a bar pilot since 2005 after captaining oil tankers and other large ships for companies.


Bar pilots are required by state law to guide every large vessel in the San Francisco Bay and other Northern California waterways.


Kleess lost his pilot license between Nov. 9, 2010, and Jan. 11, 2011, after going on medical leave, state Board of Pilot Commissioners records show.


Charlie Goddyear, a spokesman for the bar pilots association, declined to divulge the details of the medical leave.


The phone at Kleess' home rang unanswered. His attorney Rex Clack didn't return phone calls or email inquiries.


Records also indicated Klees 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, according to board records.


The medical fitness of pilots became an issue after Capt. John Cota was found at fault for ramming the cargo ship Cosco Busan into the Bay Bridge in 2007 and causing a major oil spill.


Federal investigators concluded that Cota withheld vital medical information from regulators, and that one of the factors in that crash was Cota's use of prescription medication.


Associated Press
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