Coast Guard judge suspends Portland Spirit captain after close call with rowers

By FOX 12 Staff Posted: Dec 13, 2017 2:09 PM EST Updated: Dec 13, 2017 2:09 PM EST

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – A Coast Guard administrative judge has suspended a Portland Spirit captain for three months after a close call with rowers on the Willamette River in October.

The judge found in favor of the allegations in a Coast Guard complaint against Lowell Gillespie Jr. on Monday.

The incident occurred on Oct. 29. Rowers were participating in the Portland Fall Classic near the eastern span of the Marquam Bridge when the Portland Spirit came toward them.

Race organizers said that section of the river was cordoned off for the event and the center span of the bridge was wide open. They also said the captain never sounded the horn.

The rowers involved in the incident were in the novice division.

The company that operates the Portland Spirit initially suspended Gillespie for 90 days, describing his actions as a “lapse in judgment.”

Gillespie was also disciplined in August 2015 after piloting the Portland Spirit toward dozens of people in boats, kayaks and paddle boats during a Redbull Flugtag event.

In that incident, the company said people in the water were blocking the channel, despite several warnings about the potential danger.

In the most recent case, the Coast Guard reported Gillespie filed an uncontested answer to the court and admitted he was negligent in failing to take positive action to avoid a collision with two recreational rowers.

Gillespie’s merchant mariner credentials have been suspended for three months.

“As per navigation rules, the master had the responsibility to not only avoid a collision but also to alter the course or speed of the Portland Spirit in order to not impede the passage or safe passage of the rowers,” according to a Coast Guard statement.

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http://www.kptv.com/story/36779132/portland-spirit-captain-suspended-after-close-call-with-rowers-on-willamette-river