Navy report blames crew for devastating fire on US warship

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A Navy report concluded that there were widespread failures by commanders, crew members and others that fueled the July 2020 arson that destroyed the USS Bonholm Richard, a massive five-day landing in San Diego. The explosion was said to be preventable and unacceptable.

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While one sailor has been charged with starting the fire, a more than 400-page report obtained by the Associated Press lists three dozen officers and sailors whose failures either directly caused or contributed to the loss of the ship. The findings detailed widespread lapses in training, coordination, communications, fire preparedness, equipment maintenance and overall command and control.

“Although the fire was caused by arson action, the ship was lost due to inability to extinguish the fire,” the report said. “


It reprimanded the commanders of the amphibious assault ship for poor oversight, and stated that the main fire-fighting foam system was not used because it was not properly maintained and the crew did not know how to use it. The report is expected on Wednesday.

US Navy officials said Tuesday that crews at sea consistently meet high firefighting standards, but those skills wear off when the ship goes into a maintenance period. Bonhomme Richard was under maintenance at the time of the fire.

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More people and organizations are involved with the ship, including contractors, during maintenance. And repairs often involve tools and chemicals that present a variety of hazards and challenges.

The report describes a ship in disrepair, with combustible material scattered and improperly stored. It said maintenance reports were falsified, and that 87 percent of fire stations on board had equipment problems or were not inspected.

It was also found that the crew members did not ring the bell to alert the sailors until 10 minutes after the fire broke out. In those critical minutes, there were delays in crews donning fire gear, assembling hose teams and responding to the fire, the report said.

Sailors also failed to push the button and activate the fire-fighting foam system, even though it was accessible and could have slowed the progress of the fire. “None of the crew members interviewed considered this action or had specific information about the button’s location or its function,” the report said.

The report found faults in a wide range of ranks and responsibilities, from the now-retired three-star admiral leading the Naval Surface Force Pacific Fleet – Vice Admiral Richard Brown – to senior commanders, lower-ranking sailors and civilian program managers. spread. Seventeen were cited for failures that “directly” caused the loss of the ship, while 17 others “contributed” to the loss of the ship. Two other sailors were convicted of not helping effectively in the fire response. Nine out of 36 are civilians.

The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William Leisher, has designated the commander of the US Pacific Fleet to handle any disciplinary action for military members. Navy officials said the disciplinary process was just beginning. One official said the key challenge in improving would be to address the “human factor” including leadership skills and ensure that the lowest-ranking sailors understand their responsibilities, and can identify and fix problems.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the report before its public release.

Specifically, the report noted that Vice Admiral Brown’s failures; Rear Admiral Scott Brown, Fleet Maintenance Officer for the Pacific Fleet; Rear Admiral William Greene, Fleet Maintenance Officer of the US Fleet Forces Command; previous. Admiral Eric Ver Hage, Commander of the Regional Maintenance Center; Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, Commander of Navy Region Southwest; Captain Mark Nisviadomi, Commander of Naval Base San Diego; and Captain Tony Rodriguez, commander of Amphibious Squadron 5, all “contributed to the loss of the ship.”

The report also directly faulted three of the ship’s top officers – Commanding Officer Captain Gregory Thoroman; Captain Michael Ray, Executive Officer; and Command Master Chief Jose Hernandez – for not effectively ensuring the ship’s readiness and positioning.

“The performance of his duties created an environment of poor training, maintenance and operational standards, which directly caused damage to the ship,” the report said about Thoroman. And it said that Ray, Hernandez and Captain David Hart, Commander of the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, had also failed in their responsibilities, which directly led to the loss of the ship.

Only the names of senior naval officers have been given in the report. Others were described solely by their job or rank.

Broadly speaking, the crew was slammed for “a pattern of unsuccessful exercises, minimal crew participation, absence of basic knowledge on firefighting” and an inability to coordinate with civilian firefighters.

“The loss of the USS Bonhomme Richard was a completely avoidable catastrophe,” said US Representative John Garamendi D-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. He said he read the report “with shock and anger” and would look into the matter “to determine the full extent of recklessness and complacency”.

The ship was undergoing a two-year, $250 million upgrade pierside in San Diego when it caught fire. About 115 sailors were onboard, and about 60 were treated for heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation, and minor injuries. Failure to extinguish or put out the fire caused temperatures in some areas to exceed 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, causing shipwrecks to melt into molten metal that flowed to other parts of the ship.

Due to the damage, the Navy decommissioned the ship in April. In August, seaman apprentice Ryan Mays was charged with serious arson and intentionally endangering a ship. He has denied starting the fire.

According to a court document, the fire started in the lower storage area, which had access to the duty station of the mess. Investigators found that three of the four fire stations on the ship had evidence of tampering, including disconnected firehose, and a highly flammable liquid was found near the ignition site.

The ship’s crew and other…

Credit: / warship

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