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PR TUG CAPTAIN PLEADS GUILTY IN PUERTO RICO OIL SPILL

Release Date: 11/4/94
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PR TUG CAPTAIN PLEADS GUILTY IN PUERTO RICO OIL SPILL

FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 1994

TUG CAPTAIN PLEADS GUILTY IN PUERTO RICO OIL SPILL =09 =09 =09 =20
A tugboat captain pleaded guilty in U.S. District court in San J= uan, Puerto=20
Rico, today to negligently letting a barge under tow break loose and = run=20
aground, spewing more than 750,000 gallons of oil into the waters off= a popular=20
Puerto Rican beach in January 1994, the Department of Justice and Env= ironmental=20
Protection Agency announced.
United States Attorney Guillermo Gil of San Juan and Assistant A= ttorney=20
General Lois Schiffer of the Environment and Natural Resources Divisi= on said no=20
sentencing date was set for the captain, Roy A. McMichael Jr.

Assistant Administrator Steven A. Herman of the Environmental Pr= otection=20
Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said, "This c= ase affirms=20
EPA's resolve to investigate and prosecute individuals who are indiff= erent to=20
the safe transportation of oil and petroleum products on the nation's= =20
waterways."

The Department and EPA said McMichael was the captain of the Emi= ly S, a=20
tugboat, when it left San Juan Jan. 6, 1994, towing the Morris J. Ber= man, a tank=20
barge loaded with approximately 35,000 barrels of Number 6 fuel oil. = A barrel=20
contains about 42 gallons.

Shortly after midnight Jan. 7, the towing cable between the Emil= y S and=20
Morris J. Berman parted. At the direction of McMichael, the crew of = the Emily S=20
fashioned a makeshift repair, but failed to install a protective thim= ble on the=20
broken end of the towing cable to help maintain the repair, according= to the=20
Department and EPA. The thimble was aboard the Emily S.

McMichael, who was about five miles from San Juan where he could= have=20
received assistance, placed Victor Martinez, the first mate, in charg= e of the=20
Emily S, and ordered that the Emily S proceed at full speed to its de= stination,=20
Antiqua. He and the crew then went to sleep, leaving Martinez the lo= ne person=20
awake to steer the Emily S and Morris J. Berman. Antiqua is about a = two and=20
one-half day voyage from San Juan by tugboat.

A few hours later, Martinez discovered that the towing cable had= parted=20
again and woke up McMichael and the crew. Using searchlights and rad= ar, they=20
looked for the Morris J. Berman, but could not find it.

About 4:15 a.m. on Jan. 7, the Morris J. Berman ran aground abou= t 500 feet=20
off Escambron Beach. The grounding pierced its hull, spewing more th= an 750,000=20
gallons of oil into the water. McMichael did not notify the Coast Gu= ard that=20
the barge had broken loose and was adrift in an unknown location.

According to the Department and EPA, McMichael knew the towing c= able on the=20
Emily S was in poor condition and needed to be replaced, but, neverth= eless,=20
agreed to go to sea with the Morris J. Berman under tow. =20 =0C=00

McMichael pleaded guilty to a violation of the Federal Water Pol= lution=20
Control Act (33 U.S.C. =A7=A7 1321(b)(3) and 1319(c)(1)). He is subj= ect to a=20
maximum sentence of up to one year imprisonment and a fine of up to t= wice the=20
amount of the gross pecuniary loss, which is estimated to be millions= of=20
dollars.=20

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investi-gatio= n, the EPA,=20
and the U.S. Coast Guard. It was prosecuted by the U.s. Attorney's O= ffice in=20
San Juan and the Department's Environmental Crimes Section.

The investigation is continuing, the Department said.

R-273# # #

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