Portland Spirit captain suspended after close call with rowers o - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland Spirit captain suspended after close call with rowers on Willamette River

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Image: Jordan Petram Image: Jordan Petram
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A Portland Spirit captain has been suspended after a close call involving rowers on the Willamette River.

A spectator captured images of the incident on Oct. 29.

The images show rowers participating in the Portland Fall Classic racing north toward the eastern span of the Marquam Bridge.

At the same time, the Portland Spirit headed toward them, despite the fact that section of the river had been cordoned off for the event and the center span of the bridge was wide open.

Race organizers said the captain never sounded the horn.

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

“Making smart choices is something that we tell kids every single day. And watching that, I would just basically want to know what possessed him to try that,” said Richard Parr, head coach of the Vashon Island Rowing Club. "You've got 18 kids in carbon fiber boats, that are not going to withstand any type of collision with the Portland Spirit.”

The company that operates the Portland Spirit released a statement Monday saying Captain Lowell Gillespie will serve a 90-day suspension for what they describe as a “lapse in judgment.”

This is not the first time Gillespie has faced discipline. In August 2015, Gillespie was suspended after piloting the cruise ship toward dozens of people in boats, kayaks and paddle boards during the Redbull Flugtag.

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

In this latest incident, the rowers said they had no warning, and both sides agree the rowers did nothing wrong.

The president of the Portland Spirit Co. apologized to those participants and said Gillespie could still face additional penalties.

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