The Navy wonders whether to keep the ship after the damage.
A US Navy sailor is being questioned by investigators for a possible arson after allegedly starting the massive fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego in July, defense officials said.
The nearly week-long blaze caused so much damage that the Navy is now questioning whether it makes sense to keep the large amphibious assault ship in service.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has identified the sailor, serving aboard the ship, as the potential suspect who may have started the fire, a US official said.
The investigation is still ongoing and no charges have yet been brought, another official said.
“The Navy will not comment on an ongoing investigation to protect the integrity of the investigation process and all those involved,” said Lt. Timothy Pietrack, US Navy spokesperson. “We have nothing to announce at this time.”
KGTV, ABC’s San Diego subsidiary, was the first to report details that a sailor may have been responsible for the vessel’s fire.
Several sources told KGTV that various search warrants had been executed at the sailor’s home and property. The name and rank of the sailor were not disclosed.
The blaze began on the morning of July 12, in a storage area above which Marine Corps vehicles are typically stored on the large amphibious assault ship that resembles an aircraft carrier.
The fire quickly spread to the ship’s hangar deck, where it spread to most of the ship’s upper decks and raged for five days before finally being extinguished.
Navy officials said at the time that temperatures reached up to 1,200 degrees when the flames were at their peak.
The Navy is conducting four investigations into how the fire started and the extensive damage it left behind.
After a damage visit in July, the High Admiral of the Navy questioned whether it made sense to repair the ship which has been in service since the late 1990s.
“I have 100% confidence that our defense industry can get this ship back to sea,” said Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “But, having said that, the question is, should we make this investment in a 22 year old vessel? And I won’t make any predictions until we have looked at all the facts and followed the facts and we can make recommendations. reasonable down to the chain of command on Bonhomme Richard’s future steps, repair efforts, future repair efforts. “