Lawyer for Guy Kleess who struck Bay Bridge says rush to judgment is premature 

click to enlarge The owners of the Overseas Reymar may have to pay after the ship hit the Bay Bridge on Monday. - PETTY OFFICER 2ND CLASS PAMELA J. BOEHLAND/AP
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela J. Boehland/AP
  • The owners of the Overseas Reymar may have to pay after the ship hit the Bay Bridge on Monday.

An attorney for the bar pilot in charge of the tanker that struck a Bay Bridge support tower earlier this week said Wednesday that talk about pilot error in the incident is premature.

“Any speculation is counterproductive until all the facts are gathered and studied and a final report with findings and recommendations is released,” attorney Rex Clack said in an emailed statement.

Clack’s statement on behalf of bar pilot Guy Kleess was the first from the 61-year-old San Francisco resident since the incident.

Kleess, a pilot with more than seven years’ experience navigating ships on the Bay, was guiding the 752-foot Overseas Reymar on Monday morning when it set sail from an anchorage south of the Bay Bridge.

As the ship sailed through fog that limited visibility to a quarter of a mile, the vessel was in contact with the Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic Service. The Coast Guard says it warned the ship that it was off-course some time prior to the 11:20 a.m. collision.

Although the bridge did not suffer structural damage, the empty tanker caused between $2 million and ?$3 million in damage to the wood-and-plastic fender system, Metropolitan Transportation Commission staff member Peter Lee said Wednesday during an agency meeting. Divers and engineers have inspected the span and deemed it safe.

Lee said his agency will use reserve funds to fix the damage. He also said that the regional transit agency may try to collect money from the ship’s owner, OSG Ship Management Inc., as it did from another company following the 2007 Cosco Busan crash. The agency received $3 million from the owners of that vessel for the damage that resulted from that crash, which moved a tower on the bridge, according to Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi.

Collisions with the Bay Bridge are rare, officials said, but MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger said fenders on bridge towers are important because “these ship strikes happen more than you think.” While it is unusual for tankers to hit a tower, he said small boats hit the Carquinez Bridge “all the time” because there are difficult currents in that area.

The investigation into how the Overseas Reymar struck the Bay Bridge continued Wednesday with the National Transportation Safety Board starting its investigation.

Clack said in a phone interview Wednesday that Kleess had completed his interviews with the Coast Guard, but was still awaiting separate interviews with the NTSB and the California Board of Bar Pilots Commissioners.

“Capt. Kleess is providing his full assistance and cooperation with these investigations,” Clack said in the emailed statement.

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

Bay City News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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