March 6, 2009 in Nation/World

Exxon Valdez captain apologizes for oil spill

Wesley Loy McClatchy
 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Joe Hazelwood, captain of the doomed oil tanker Exxon Valdez, is offering “a very heartfelt apology” to Alaskans for the disastrous 1989 oil spill in Prince William Sound.

The apology comes at the end of a new, 288-page book commemorating the 20th anniversary of the spill. The book features 62 “personal stories” from people involved with the spill.

The pìece de résistance is an interview with Hazelwood, a largely reclusive figure since the shipwreck.

In “The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster,” Hazelwood says he now works as an investigator and technical consultant with a maritime law firm in New York.

He doesn’t say much about the actual grounding.

After a long court fight, Hazelwood beat all but one criminal charge, negligent discharge of oil. He would be sentenced to community service.

Hazelwood seems to suggest he was wrongly blamed: “The true story is out there for anybody who wants to look at the facts, but that’s not the sexy story and that’s not the easy story,” he says.

In the end, Hazelwood, now in his 60s, says he felt Alaskans always “gave me a fair shake.”

“I was the captain of a ship that ran aground and caused a horrendous amount of damage. I’ve got to be responsible for that,” he says.

“I would like to offer an apology, a very heartfelt apology, to the people of Alaska for the damage caused by the grounding of a ship that I was in command of.”


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