The job description for manslaughter

Assistant Captain Richard Smith received an 18-month sentence for causing the deaths of 11 people while piloting a ferry across the New York Harbor in 2003. Apparently, Smith was fatigued and under the influence of painkillers when he passed out under the wheel of the ferry. His boss received a sentence of one year and one day for violating a rule which requires ferries to have two captains.

Smith regrets his actions and wishes he would have called in sick that day. I’m sure he does wish that he could take that day back and do it all over again. But, what would he have done differently? He lied about his high blood pressure and prescription pain killer use so he could renew his Coast Guard license. No doubt he needed his license so he could work. Like the rest of us, I’m sure Smith has bills to pay. Telling the truth would have precluded Smith from renewing his license and working as a pilot. So how would he support his family?

One of the victim’s family members equated Smith to a drunk driver.  I disagree. Smith was trying to work and support his family. In a perfect world, he could have admitted to himself and his family that he could no longer perform the job because of his health and sought employment and possibly retraining elsewhere. Reality is much different for workers in this situation, however. It’s doubtful he could have found employment earning similar wages. And, at age 57, there are few retraining options available. I think Smith did the only thing he could have done. Gone to his doctor, got a prescription to help mask the symptoms of his health problems, tell the bosses what they want to hear, and suck it up and go to work everyday.

I don’t know what I would have done differently.

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