A Navy report recently obtained stated that the USS Bonhomme Richard would have been saved if not for poor fire-fighting efforts and poor leadership. The USS Bonhomme Richard was set ablaze back on Jul 12, 2021 in an arson fire when it was docked at Naval Base San Diego. Due to the damage from the fire, the Navy decided that it would be better to decommission the ship rather than repair it, as they determined that it would be too costly.
The report, written by Vice Admiral Scott Conn, criticized the ship’s safety and disaster measures. Vice Adm. Conn stated that the fire-fighting foam system was not properly maintained and that the crew did not know how to use it, “Although the fire was started by an act of arson, the ship was lost due to an inability to extinguish the fire”.
According to the report, 87% of the ship’s fire systems were not properly inspected. Another contributing factor to the fire was the fact that the alarm system did not start 10 minutes after the fire started, costing precious time that could have been used to fight the flames, along with a lack of communication between the ship and outside fire departments. 60 sailors of the 115 that were onboard at the time were treated for fire-related injuries such as smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. Temperatures got as high as 1,200 degrees fahrenheit.
The report named three of the ship’s top officers Capt. Gregory Thoroman, the commanding officer; Capt. Michael Ray, the executive officer; and Command Master Chief Jose Hernandez as being at fault. In total 17 officers, crew, and civilian employees were accused of failures that directly contributed to the fire and lack of fire preparedness. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Lescher has put the Commander of the U.S Pacific Fleet in charge of handling disciplinary actions against all those in the report. Seaman Apprentice Ryan Mays has been charged with aggravated arson and willful hazarding of a vessel. The fire started in the lower storage section which Mays had access to. Mays has denied the charges.
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