Exxon Valdez’s Captain Joseph Hazelwood Dead at 75


By Rupert Deedes

Joseph Hazelwood, who was the captain of the tanker Exxon Valdez, has died at the age of 75 from the combined effects of cancer and COVID-19. Hazelwood lived in Huntington.

Hazelwood was the captain of the Exxon Valdez, which ran aground on 24 March 1989 in the waters of Alaska’s Prince William Sound, dumping nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil in one of the U.S. worst environmental disasters.

A jury in Captain Hazelwood’s trail acquitted him of a felony charge of operating a vessel while intoxicated, but convicted him on a misdemeanor charge of negligently discharging oil. Hazelwood was not on the bridge when the accident occurred.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the ship’s third mate had failed to maneuver the vessel properly owing to fatigue and excessive workload,

Hazelwood was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service.

The Coast Guard also suspended his license for nine months, but he never returned to the seas.

Hazelwood graduated from Huntington High School and received a Bachelor of Science degree in marine transportation from the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx in 1968.

In 1992, the State University of New York ("SUNY") Maritime College hired Hazelwood as a Professor. He also worked as a paralegal and maritime consultant for Chalos & Brown, which had represented him in his legal cases.

Hazelwood took full responsibility for the Exxon Valdez grounding - as its Captain - and offered a “heartfelt apology” to the people of Alaska.