US sailor accused of starting 2020 California Navy ship fire

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 30 2021 08:01 AM

US sailor accused of starting 2020 California Navy ship fire 1
This US Navy photo released July 13, 2020 shows a fire as it continues to be fought into the evening on board the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego, on July 12, 2020. On the morning of July 12,2020 a fire was called away aboard the ship while it was moored pier side at Naval Base San Diego. Base and shipboard firefighters responded to the fire. Bonhomme Richard is going through a maintenance availability, which began in 2018. Austin Haist/US NAVY / AFP

WASHINGTON - The US Navy on Thursday accused a sailor of causing the dramatic fire that broke out on a military ship off the coast of San Diego, California last year, injuring 21 people.

The sailor, who was a crew member aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, "is accused of starting the fire," Third Fleet spokesman Sean Robertson said in a statement without identifying the sailor. 

Commander of the Third Fleet, Vice Admiral Steve Koehler is considering court-martial charges, according to the statement, and has asked an independent military judge to decide after an initial hearing whether a trial is warranted. 

According to the US military code of justice, the sailor was served the accusation Thursday.

"Evidence collected during the investigation is sufficient to direct a preliminary hearing in accordance with due process under the military justice system," Robertson said.

The USS Bonhomme Richard was at its home port in San Diego for maintenance when the explosion erupted on July 12, 2020 with 160 sailors on board. 

According to naval officials, 17 sailors and four civilians were injured and transported to the hospital while several firefighters also suffered burns and smoke inhalation. 

First responders worked for four days to extinguish the blaze. 

The Navy had planned to repair the ship but it was so damaged it had to be discarded earlier this year. 

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© Agence France-Presse

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