( dpa ) - The pilot who crashed a cargo ship into the San Francisco Bay Bridge spilling some 200,000 liters of heavy fuel oil was charged Monday with criminal negligence.
In court documents filed in US District Court in San Francisco, prosecutors charged John Joseph Cota with misdemeanor violations of the federal Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, alleging that his negligence caused the November 7, 2007 collision and oil spill.
The government alleges Cota triggered the mishap by failing to steer a "collision free course," for the Hong Kong-based Cosco Busan as well as failing to use the ship's radar and adequately consult with the captain and crew.
The accident fouled some 70 kilometres of coastline and caused the death of some 2,000 birds. Cota, the ship's owner and the company's insurer are already facing a civil lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department.
San Francisco city officials also have sued to recover the cost of the cleanup, which is essentially complete.
Cota could face a maximum of 18 months in prison if convicted, although it is rare to receive such a long prison term on misdemeanor charges. He also faces a maximum 115,000 dollars in fines.