A sailor accused of setting Bonhomme Richard on fire: indictment


A young sailor will face a preliminary Article 32 hearing Monday in San Diego over allegations that he set off the fire that destroyed the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard in July 2020. According to an indictment the Navy provided to Task & Purpose, Apprentice Seaman Ryan S. Mays, 20, is charged with violating section 110 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; deliberate endangerment of the ship; and section 126; aggravated arson.

A member of Amphibious Squadron Five, Mays “set fire intentionally and maliciously, knowing that a human being was there at the time,” said Bonhomme Richard, according to the indictment. The charges were laid on July 28 by Captain Jack L. Killman of the Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet.

Here is the indictment of the sailor accused of setting fire to a $ 1.4 billion warship

Mays’ section 32 hearing will determine whether or not the charges against him will be referred to court martial. The hearing marks the culmination of a year-long investigation into the blaze, which began on July 12, 2020. The blaze burned for five days, damaging 470 of the 1,400 seats at the Bonhomme Richard, according to an affidavit of the Naval Criminal Investigative. A service. Seventy-one people were reportedly injured in the fight to extinguish Hell.

First commissioned in August 1998, the Bonhomme Richard cost approximately $ 1.4 billion to build in 2019 dollars. Her crew of approximately 1,100 people served in Operation Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and several other military and humanitarian operations before the ship was serviced in its home port at Naval Base San Diego approximately two years before the fire broke out in its lower mooring. region.

Investigators found that a series of failures throughout the Navy’s chain of command left Sailors unprepared to deal with the blaze, and those failures resulted in the loss of the vessel.

“Although the fire was started by arson, the ship was lost due to an inability to extinguish the fire,” wrote former commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Admiral Scott Conn , who oversaw the investigation, according to USNI News.

“During the 19 months of performing the vessel’s maintenance uptime, repeated failures allowed the accumulation of significant risks and an insufficiently prepared crew, which led to an ineffective fire response,” Conn said.

Here is the indictment of the sailor accused of setting fire to a $ 1.4 billion warship
Sailors and Federal firefighters tackle a blaze aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego, July 12. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross)

Conn named 36 people, including five admirals and the commander, executive officer and commander-in-chief of Bonhomme Richard, as having contributed to the loss of the ship. Among the shortcomings was the lack of sufficient training to deal with the fire. The Navy had developed a manual known as the 8010 manual in response to the loss of the USS Miami submarine following an arson attack in 2012. The manual emphasized greater caution for ships in an industrial environment. , but apparently the Navy did not follow the rules set out in the manual. , USNI News reported.

“Over the past 5 years, policy changes and corrective actions to deal with fire safety have been implemented inconsistently or have not been implemented across the maintenance organization of the Navy…), Navy Installations Command and Naval Surface Force Pacific Fleet, ”Conn wrote.

This failure extended to the crew of the Bonhomme Richard, investigators discovered.

“These personnel were generally unfamiliar with the contents of the 8010 manual and said their training did not prepare them to fight a fire the size of the one that occurred on board. Bonhomme RichardThe report said. The result was an “unorganized” firefighting effort crippled by bureaucratic divisions, investigators wrote.

Here is the indictment of the sailor accused of setting fire to a $ 1.4 billion warship
200714-N-SS350-1050 SAN DIEGO (July 14, 2020) Sailors stand at attention and salute the ensign during the morning colors behind the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego on July 14 as the ship endured a permanent fire. On the morning of July 12, a fire started aboard the ship while it was moored next to the pier at Naval Base San Diego. Base and ship firefighters responded to the blaze. Bonhomme Richard is going through a maintenance standby, which began in 2018. (US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Jason Waite / Released)

The service has since set up an industrial fire safety insurance group that will develop policies to reduce the risk of future industrial fires aboard ships, according to the Navy Times.

According to Navy records, Mays enlisted in the Navy in May 2019 in hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL. He was a SEAL training student in Coronado, Calif. From September 2019 to March 2020, according to his official Navy record, but he left the program after five days of basic underwater demolition / SEAL training. Mays was then assigned to Bonhomme Richard in March 2020.

“According to Navy officials, the morale and demeanor of Sailors who had aspired to become a SEAL, and then found themselves serving in a more traditional role on a Navy ship, is often very difficult,” says an affidavit from the Navy. NCIS.

Investigators found evidence of arson after the fire, including liquid in a bottle that tested positive for heavy petroleum distillate. It was also discovered that the firefighting equipment in the area where the fire started had been rendered unusable.

Here is the indictment of the sailor accused of setting fire to a $ 1.4 billion warship
Sailor apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays reportedly posted “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” on his Instagram account about a month before the fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard. (Photo courtesy of NCIS.)

A crew member later told NCIS investigators he saw a sailor heading for the stowage of the vehicle about five minutes before the fire broke out. While the crew member initially said he could not identify the man he saw, he later realized that the sailor was the same height and build as Mays.

The crew member also told investigators that the sailor said “I love the deck,” a phrase used by Mays, according to the affidavit.

Bonhomme Richard’s senior command chief Jose Hernandez described Mays as “a person who has shown contempt for authority and the United States Navy,” the affidavit said. Still, Mays denied playing any role in starting the fire.

“He maintained his innocence as to the cause of the fire throughout the interview,” the affidavit stated. “At one point, after learning that he had been identified as having walked down the V-down ramp, before the fire started, Mays said he was being installed.”

In August, Mays’ attorney Gary Barthel played down the NCIS affidavit in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“The warrant is just an affidavit of an agent (NCIS),” Barthel told the newspaper. “It is still possible that the evidence shows that this warrant was invalid.”

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