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Navy charges sailor with setting fire that destroyed USS Bonhomme Richard

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The Navy has charged a sailor with setting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard last July and injured over 60 sailors and civilians. Navy officials say they do not believe the sailor, whose name was not released, intended to destroy the ship, but the blaze he set was whipped by high winds into a towering inferno.

In a statement, the Navy said charges were brought against a sailor in response to evidence found during the criminal investigation into the fire. The sailor, who holds the rank of seaman apprentice, was a member of the ship’s crew at the time. 

The fire, which started on a Sunday morning while the ship was undergoing an overhaul in San Diego, burned for four days before it was finally put out. Extinguishing the fire required hundreds of military and civilian firefighters, as well as helicopters dumping water.

Navy Ship USS Bonhomme Richard Burns At Naval Base In San Diego
A fire continues to be fought into the evening on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego, July 12, 2020 in San Diego, Califonia. 

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Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin Haist/U.S. Navy via Getty Images


The Navy estimated it would cost more than $2.5 billion to repair the ship, so it had the ship decommissioned in April and towed away to be dismantled. 

“We have not seen a fire of this magnitude in a Navy ship in recent memory, at least in my career. So very extensive in terms of – in terms of the damage and the intensity,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday said in a press conference at the time. 


Sailors describe out-of-control fire aboard N…

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A hearing will be held to determine if there is enough evidence against the sailor to court martial him. 

Navy officials say a separate investigation is expected to recommend disciplinary action against those responsible for conditions on the ship which allowed the fire to spread so rapidly.

Eleanor Watson contributed reporting. 

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