TX oil spill audio tapes

NBC NEWS/KPRC
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 9:40am

Following up on the oil spill in the Houston ship channel last month, NBC News has obtained audio tapes of the captain to captain conversation that occurred just moments before impact, reporter Joel Eisenbaum has more.

Captain-to-Captain, "Well, if you keep on going, I'm going to get you..."

It's the audio tape federal investigators are now poring over and Local 2 investigates managed to obtain a copy, the captain to captain conversation minutes before the disastrous ship channel collision March 22nd.

Captain-to-Captain, "'Cause right now I'm less than three-quarter a mile from you, and you ain't got to the channel yet."

That's the cargo ship captain warning the tugboat captain his decision to cross in front of him with barges is a poor one.

THAT'S THE CARGO SHIP CAPTAIN WARNING THE TUGBOAT CAPTAIN HIS DECISION TO CROSS IN FRONT OF HIM WITH BARGES IS A POOR ONE.

Steven Nerheim, Director, Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service, "There was communication between those two vessels. Was it early in the situation? No."

Joel Eisenbaum, "Out of this new fancy building at Ellington, the Coast Guard runs a vessel traffic service. Only, the day of the accident, the information officer didn't warn either captain about their collision course."

Steven Nerheim, Director, Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service, "It doesn't look crazy. Because every day, every day on the Houston Ship Channel, we have ships meeting in the 530-foot-wide channel, and tow boats crossing them. And this is the norm."

Steve Nerheim says his employees aren't like air traffic controllers. Vessel captains are the ones responsible for setting their own courses and avoiding each other, and usually it works.

Captain-to-Captain, "Looking at you now, it don't look good. Yeah, that don't look good. You need to keep on backing her down hard as you can. I'm going to shoot her through the red side as much as I can. Just keep her going."

Nearly 170,000 gallons of tar like oil spilled into the channel after the collision, closing one of the country's busiest ports for several days.

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