Navy report finds significant failures across leadership positions in fire that destroyed ship

The USS Bonhomme Richard burned for five-days in July of 2020

Updated: October 19, 2021 - 2:54pm

A report from the U.S. Navy has concluded that there were sweeping failures by commanders, crew members, and a number of other integral players that led to the July 2020 fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard, which burned for five days in San Diego.

While just one soldier has been charged with setting the fire which was categorized as an arson, the failings of three dozen officers and sailors are also listed as direct and indirect causes of the fire that destroyed the ship. 

The 400-page report details significant failings in trainings, fire preparedness, ship communication, equipment maintenance, and command control. "Although the fire was started by an act of arson, the ship was lost due to an inability to extinguish the fire," reads the report.

The ship's main firefighting foam system was not deployed during the blaze evidently because it had not been properly maintained, nor had the crew been trained on how to properly use it. The system is used by pushing a button that deploys the foam. "No member of the crew interviewed considered this action or had specific knowledge as to the location of the button or its function," said the report.

According to the report, crews were not notified of the fire until 10 minutes after it had been discovered, costing sailors valuable time in fighting the blaze aboard the ship filled with combustible materials. 

Specifically at fault, according to the report, are the ship's three top officers – Captain Gregory Thoroman, Captain Michael Ray, and Command Master Chief Jose Hernandez – for not keeping the ship and its crew in ready condition for an emergency. 

At the time of the blaze, close to 60 sailors were treated for heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation, and minor injuries.

Due to excessive damage to the ship, the Navy decommissioned it in April. 

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