Navy charges Bonhomme Richard sailor in relation to fire that gutted ship

Written by Nick Blenkey
Fireboats fight Bonhomme Richard fire

Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department boats helped combat the fire onboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. John J. Mike)

The Navy has filed charges against a sailor for allegedly deliberately starting the fire last year that quickly spread and gutted much of the interior of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6).

U.S. Third Fleet Public Affairs Office released the following statement from Cmdr. Sean Robertson, U.S. Third Fleet spokesperson.

“On July 29, charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice were brought forth against a Navy Sailor in response to evidence found during the criminal investigation into the fire started on USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) on July 12, 2020. Evidence collected during the investigation is sufficient to direct a preliminary hearing in accordance with due process under the military justice system. The Sailor was a member of Bonhomme Richard’s crew at the time and is accused of starting the fire.

“Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, Commander, U.S. Third Fleet is considering court-martial charges and has directed a preliminary hearing at which an impartial hearing officer will make determinations and recommendations required by the UCMJ prior to any further trial proceedings—including whether or not there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed and to offer a recommendation as to the disposition of the case.”

The fire began on the morning of July 12, 2020, when the ship was berthed at Naval Base San Diego, and burned for nearly five days. The Navy subsequently decided to decommission and scrap the ship.

In August last year, it emerged that a Bonhomme Richard sailor had been questioned in the investigation of the fire, on suspicions of arson.

The San Diego Union-Tribune this morning reported that sailor’s lawyer as confirming that his client is the individual who has now been charged.

According the U.S. Naval Institute’s USNI News, the sailor is a seaman apprentice and is charged with aggravated arson under Article 126 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and hazarding a vessel under Article 110.

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