US Navy takes accountability actions after USS Bonhomme Richard fire investigation

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)

The US Navy has completed the accountability actions in support of the command investigation into the July 2020 fire aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Samuel Paparo, the Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), made individual disposition decisions and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro issued a Secretarial Letter of Censure (SLOC).

As CDA, Paparo made 27 individual disposition decisions, which were primarily focused on the ship’s fire prevention, readiness, and response efforts. The disposition decisions included six Nonjudicial Punishments (NJP) with guilty findings, two NJPs with Matter of Interest Filings (MIF) and a Letter of Instruction (LOI), two NJP dismissals with a warning, one additional MIF, five other LOIs, three Non-Punitive Letters of Caution (NPLOC), two letters to former Sailors documenting substandard performance, and six no-action determinations.

Paparo’s CDA accountability actions were primarily focused on Bonhomme Richard’s leadership and the fire response team. Paparo awarded punitive letters of reprimand and forfeitures of pay to Captain Gregory Scott Thoroman, former commanding officer, and Captain Michael Ray, former executive officer. Former Command Master Chief Jose Hernandez was awarded a punitive letter of reprimand.

After a thorough and careful review, the CDA issued LOIs to Rear Admiral Scott Brown, US Pacific Fleet director of fleet maintenance, and Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage, commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center.

Additionally, Secretary Del Toro issued a Secretarial Letter of Censure (SLOC) to Vice Admiral (retired) Richard Brown. At the time of the fire, Vice Admiral (retired) Brown was Commander, Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleet.

The secretary said the incident could have been prevented with adequate oversight into the ship’s material condition and the crew’s readiness to combat a fire.

The CDA’s actions are separate and distinct from the ongoing criminal proceedings against Seaman Apprentice Ryan Mays, who is accused of arson and hazarding a vessel.

The navy said the accountability actions do not represent the entirety of corrective actions following the fire aboard Bonhomme Richard.

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