Just to clarify a few things you will see on the playback:
1) The vessel Tintamara has a pilot onboard that goes by '16' on the audio playback.
2) There is no audio until about a minute into the playback.
3) Things start getting dicey around the 3 minute mark.
4) Here are some initial USCG findings (courtesy Professional Mariner):
The captain of the Mel Oliver was not aboard the vessel at the time of the collision.
Mel Oliver had an assigned crew of a Captain, Steersman apprentice, and two deck hands.
The steersman apprentice was operating the Mel Oliver at the time of the collision. He was licensed but his license did not authorize him to operate the vessel without the captain’s presence in the wheelhouse.
(The captain of the Mel Oliver testified that he left his boat for three days to follow up on a tip that his girlfriend was seeing another man. The captain said the apprentice mate he left behind had captained vessels previously.)
The Mel Oliver did not return the radio call outs from the Tintamara prior to the collision.
Vessel traffic service did call out to the Mel Oliver prior to the collision.
The Mel Oliver did not answer the vessel traffic service prior to the collision.
The Mississippi River oil spill occurred on July 23 when the tanker Tintomara and a barge carrying 419,000 gallons of oil – being towed by the Mel Oliver – collided. The barge split in half, spilling much of its cargo into the river. It is estimated that about 280,000 gallons of oil actually spilled into the Mississippi. The spill was the worst to ever occur on the lower Mississippi River.