An administrative law judge has suspended the Merchant Mariner Credentials of a captain who hit other vessels in a traffic jam two years ago during the Red Bull Flugtag event in Oregon.
Capt. Lowell Gillespie Jr. was in command of the Portland Spirit, a dinner cruise boat. He was cited for failing to take appropriate action to avoid a collision as outlined in Rule 8 of the Inland Rules of Navigation. Soon after the incident, the U.S. Coast Guard issued Capt. Gillespie a letter of warning for a violation of Rule 8 but he declined it, according to news reports. The Coast Guard subsequently filed a complaint against his Merchant Mariner Credential.
The Red Bull event, in which competitors attempt to fly home-made, human-powered flying machines, attracted hundreds of recreational vessels on the Willamette River, blocking the Portland Spirit’s navigational route. The Coast Guard attempted to escort the vessel through the area but was unable to control the movement of other vessels, paddle crafts and other floating devices.
Red Bull, the event organizer, was issued and accepted a letter of warning by the Coast Guard for misrepresenting the scale of the event and failing to keep the waterways clear.
The Honorable George Jordan, U.S. Coast Guard Administrative Law Judge for the hearing, stated in his decision that Gillespie “should have recognized the likelihood of a large number of vessels impeding his normal route,” and that “a higher sanction than the minimum one month penalty” was warranted. Accordingly, the judge ordered Gillespie’s credentials to be surrendered to the Coast Guard immediately for one month. Gillespie faces an additional month of suspension if he fails to successfully complete a 12-month probationary period.
Gillespie has 60 days to appeal the ruling to the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.