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Navy charges sailor in connection with USS Bonhomme Richard fire that destroyed warship

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The Navy has charged a sailor in connection with the massive fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard warship over four days in 2020 while docked off San Diego, a naval spokesman said Thursday. 

The unidentified sailor was a member of the ship’s crew and is accused of starting the July 12, 2020 blaze, the Navy said. The charges are based on evidence collected during an investigation, Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson, said in a statement.

“Evidence collected during the investigation is sufficient to direct a preliminary hearing in accordance with due process under the military justice system,” Robertson said. 

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Navy Ship FireSmoke rises from the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego after an explosion and fire. A sailor has been charged in the fire, the Navy said Thursday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Navy Ship FireSmoke rises from the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego after an explosion and fire. A sailor has been charged in the fire, the Navy said Thursday. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, is considering court-martial charges. He has ordered a preliminary hearing at which an impartial hearing officer will make determinations and recommendations required by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 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 statement said. 

Arson was suspected of causing the fire and a sailor was questioned, a senior defense official said weeks after the blaze. 

The fire caused billions of dollars worth of damage on the amphibious assault ship, which raged over four days and was the Navy’s worst U.S. warship fire outside of combat in recent memory. 

The ship was eventually decommissioned. Repairing it would have cost $2.5 billion to $3 billion and take five to seven years, said Rear Adm. Eric H. Ver Hage of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center said at the time. 

A fire burns on the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego on July 12, 2020 in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

A fire burns on the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego on July 12, 2020 in San Diego. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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“We did not come to this decision lightly,” said then-Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite last year. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her.”

Fox News’ Frank Miles contributed to this report. 

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