ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — Alcohol, inexperience, and complacency conspired to cause the nation's worst oil spill, evidence and testimony suggest after a five-day federal investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board hearing on the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which concluded Saturday, implicated the following players:
Captain Joseph Hazelwood, who has been charged with operating the ship while drunk and declined to testify because of his pending criminal trial.
The captain received Coast Guard permission to divert the ship across a northbound shipping lane to avoid chunks of ice from a glacier. But the ship continued without approval beyond the traffic lanes.
The captain also left Third Mate Gregory Cousins in charge, knowing he was not certified to pilot the ship through the sound. And Mr. Hazelwood had the tanker on automatic pilot although company policy restricts use of the device to open water.
Mr. Cousins, who took the ship off automatic pilot before the crash but failed to turn the vessel away from Bligh Reef.
Exxon Shipping Company, which was aware of Hazelwood's alcoholism but said it did not know he had resumed drinking after treatment in 1985.
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, operator of the Alaskan oil pipeline and the Valdez terminal, which did not respond as quickly to the disaster as called for in its spill-contingency plan.