Cosco Busan Pilot’s Medical Records Questioned

Cosco Busan DamageCosco Busan Photo by Noah Berger/Associated PressOctober 15th 2003 the Staten Island ferry crashed into a concrete pier killing eleven people and leaving 71 injured. It was later determined that the captain lost consciousness while at the ship’s controls. He had taken the painkillers Tramadol and Tylenol PM, both of which can cause drowsiness as a side effect. Since that time the United States Coast Guard has put increased scrutiny on the medical records of all licensed mariners, a review process that could get more stringent as details emerge regarding medication taken by the Cosco Busan’s pilot.The Associated Press tells us:

The ship pilot who was at the helm when a freighter spilled 58,000 gallons of fuel into San Francisco Bay in November suffers from a sleep disorder and was on prescription medication to ward off drowsiness, people close to the investigation told The Associated Press.Investigators want to know whether the disorder — or even the medication itself — contributed to the accident.Federal officials and others, speaking on condition of anonymity, said John Cota has sleep apnea, a breathing condition that can disrupt sleep all night long and leave sufferers severely fatigued during the day. Sleep apnea is blamed for countless auto accidents every year in which drivers nodded off at the wheel.Cota, 59, was also said to be taking a sleep-apnea drug whose known side effects include impaired judgment.Prescription drugs are “certainly a part of our investigation,” said G. Ross Wheatley, chief of investigations for the Coast Guard’s San Francisco sector.The disclosure has raised questions among members of Congress about the Coast Guard’s licensing practices and whether Cota should have been deemed fit for a job in which he was responsible for guiding giant cargo ships in and out of port and through the dangerous waters of the bay.Under Coast Guard policy, a sleep disorder can be grounds for disqualification, but is not automatically so. Continue Reading…

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