SAN FRANCISCO — The pilot of an oil tanker that side-swiped the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in January should have his license revoked or suspended, a state panel recommended on Thursday.
The finding about pilot Guy Kleess was contained in a report from a committee of the California Board of Pilot Commissioners about the mishap involving the 752-foot Overseas Reymar.
The committee said the board should find for pilot error in the Jan. 7 bridge strike, saying Kleess failed to effectively communicate with the crew and became complacent.
"Capt. Kleess lost awareness of what was happening around him and how information, events and his own actions impacted his objectives," the report said.
The board was expected to take up the committee recommendations later on Thursday. A message left at Kleess's home was not immediately returned.
Kleess reportedly changed course immediately before clipping the tower. The U.S. Coast Guard has said the ship had been warned it was off course.
The tower's wooden fenders were damaged, 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.