A branch pilot in the waters of Hampton Roads cannot win back his pilot’s license after he missed a random drug screen, lied about showing up and later tested positive for cocaine.
After he went through a drug rehab program, branch pilot Walter H. McCrory Jr. tried to get his license back. Nothing doing, said the Virginia Board for Branch Pilots. But Henrico County Circuit Judge Catherine C. Hammond vacated the board’s decision.
Today a panel of the Court of Appeals said substantial evidence supported the board’s action and reversed a decision for McCrory that included an award of attorney’s fees.
Branch pilots are the ones who guide commercial and naval ships through the Hampton Roads waterways.
On July 8, 2008, McCrory was ordered to take a random drug test after he finished piloting a ship outbound from Norfolk Southern’s coal pier. Under regulations of the Virginia Board for Branch Pilots, he had two hours to report for testing and needed to show up by 1:00 p.m. Instead, McCrory came to the center at around 4:30, saying he had spent the intervening time picking up one of his children, answering phone calls and reading the newspaper.
While sitting in his car in the testing center parking lot, McCrory told a representative of the Virginia Pilot Association that he was “done” with the testing, even though he hadn’t entered the center. When he finally did go in, he was told it was too late to test that day. He did not return to the center for two days, at which time he tested positive for cocaine.
Writing for the appellate panel, Senior Judge Rosemarie Annunziata disagreed that the board ignored evidence of McCrory’s rehabilitation and said the board was being “mindful of the need for Branch Pilots to be free of mind-altering substances while guiding large commercial and military vessels on busy waterways …”