US Navy over fire that destroyed warship

The US Navy revealed on Friday that it had disciplined more than 20 sailors for the four-day fire that ravaged the USS Bonhomme Richard while the amphibious warship was docked in San Diego in July 2020.

The warship’s captain and the fire response team were the targets of the most serious actions. Capt. Gregory Scott Thoroman, the ship’s former commanding officer, and Capt. Michael Ray, its former executive officer, both received harsh letters of reprimand and had their pay forfeited.

Jose Hernandez, the former command master chief, was issued a severe letter of reprimand.

The commander of the US Pacific Fleet and head of the Consolidated Disposition Authority was Admiral Samuel Paparo.

A Secretarial Letter of Censure was given to Vice Admiral Richard Brown, a retired officer who at the time oversaw the US Pacific Fleet, by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.

Del Toro said in the letter that Brown “failed to detect and mitigate against the lack of oversight that contributed to the loss of the ship” and faulted Brown for not making sure the sailors in the command were adequately prepared.

As a result of the fire inquiry, the CDA also imposed a number of non-judicial penalties and other actions against sailors. The Navy was obliged to demolish the expensive ship by the fire itself. The Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter fighters that the Bonhomme Richard could have carried were being upgraded while it was in port.

The continuing criminal case against Seaman Apprentice Ryan Mays, who is charged with setting a vessel on fire and hazarding it, is unaffected by the Navy’s actions. At the time of the fire, Mays was a member of the ship’s crew. The attorney for Mays insists on his client’s innocence.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William Lescher stated that losing Bonhomme Richard to this fire may have been avoided. In order to prevent this from happening again, fundamental changes are being made to the way the Navy learns and leads.

A Navy inquiry concluded in October that a number of systemic failures—including a failure to maintain the ship, guarantee proper training, offer shore backup, or conduct oversight—were to blame for the fire that destroyed the ship.
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