US Navy sailor charged with starting fire on amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard

The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard on fire at Naval Base San Diego, California, on July 12, 2020 (Photo: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin Haist)

Charges have been filed against a junior enlisted sailor of the US Navy in connection with a fire that severely damaged the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, leading to both its retirement and scrapping to occur much earlier than originally planned.

A navy spokesman said the sailor, whose identity has not been disclosed, has been charged with aggravated arson and hazarding of a vessel or aircraft under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for the July 12, 2020 blaze that lasted five days and had also inflicted non-life-threatening injuries on 61 people on the ship while it was berthed at Naval Base San Diego, California.

An Article 32 preliminary hearing will occur at a later date to determine whether the accused will stand trial. The hearing will also review any evidence collected in the course of the investigation into the incident.

The navy is continuing to investigate the fire on Bonhomme Richard as the ship itself is undergoing dismantling.

Bonhomme Richard was decommissioned earlier in April. The ship had completed only 22 years of its expected 40-year operational service life.

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