Key witnesses decline to testify in New Orleans oil spill probe

Jen DeGregorio reports in The Times-Picayune – that

Five key witnesses have refused to testify for the Coast Guard’s investigation of a summer oil spill in New Orleans, including the mariner who abandoned the towboat involved in the incident.

Terry Carver, the master-licensed pilot who was supposed to be in charge of the towboat Mel Oliver, and four officials from the Harvey company that employed him have filed statements with the Coast Guard declining to be interviewed. Coast Guard spokesman Stephen Lehmann was unsure Friday afternoon whether the witnesses could face reprimand for failing to testify.

Coast Guard investigating officer Melissa Harper has questioned nearly two dozen witnesses during a series of public hearings meant to determine the cause of the July 23 spill. The accident occurred when the Mel Oliver abruptly turned a fuel barge it was toting into the path of an oncoming ship, which cut through the barge and unleashed about 280,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil into the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

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