U.S. Navy Considering Court-martial Against Sailor in Bonhomme Richard Fire

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  • 05:42 AM, July 30, 2021
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U.S. Navy Considering Court-martial Against Sailor in Bonhomme Richard Fire
Decommissioning of USS Bonhomme Richard warship

The U.S. Navy is charging a sailor in connection with the 2020 fire that destroyed its Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).

The warship ignited on 12 July, 2020, and burned for four days. It was left with extensive structural, electrical and mechanical damage.

"On July 29, charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) 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," the Navy said in a release.

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 service added.

The warship was decommissioned in April this year, after repairs proved to be costly. The Navy estimated that repairing the ship would run more than $2.5 billion for 5-7 years. Dismantling the ship is expected to cost about $30 million and less than a year.

The Navy also examined rebuilding the ship for alternate purposes and determined the cost could exceed $1 billion, which is as much or more than a new-construction hospital ship, submarine tender, or command-and-control ship.

Bonhomme Richard was nearing the end of a maintenance period when the fire broke out, and among the work that had been done to the ship was a modernization of computer and other systems to support F-35B Joint Strike Fighter operations. The Navy had spent $250 million for the 18-month upgrade.

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