Sailor Charged with Fire Destroying “Disgruntled” US Warship, Prosecutors Say | US Army


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Navy prosecutors alleged that a sailor accused of setting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard last year was “unhappy” after abandoning Navy Seal training.

Attorney-Commander Richard Federico alleged in court on Monday that text messages showed apprentice sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays lied to family, friends and investigators about why he left Seal training and that he was angry at being reassigned to Bonhomme Richard. They also alleged that he used bad language with a superior days before the fire.

Mays denied setting fire to the amphibious assault ship which burned for nearly five days and injured dozens on board. His defense attorneys say there is no physical evidence linking him to the fire.

USS Bonhomme Richard fire: US warship rocked by explosion in San Diego - video
USS Bonhomme Richard fire: US warship rocked by explosion in San Diego – video

Defense attorneys said the other sailors viewed Mays as “arrogant” because he came from Seal training.
The young sailor was charged with aggravated arson and deliberate endangerment of a ship in the blaze which was the worst U.S. warship fire in recent memory.

The hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to a military trial. A key government witness is supposed to testify on Tuesday, a crew member who said they saw Mays descend into the ship’s lower storage area where investigators said cardboard boxes were set on fire.

About 160 sailors and officers were on board when the fire broke out on the 840-foot (256-meter) vessel, which had been docked at Naval Station San Diego as it underwent a 250 million upgrade. dollars (£ 189 million) over two years.

More than 60 sailors and civilians were treated for minor injuries, heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Left with extensive structural, electrical and mechanical damage, the billion dollar ship was scrapped.

Defense attorney Gary Barthel said no DNA linked to Mays was found at the scene and asked why investigators concluded Mays did so simply because they found a lighter among his business. “Were there other people on the ship with lighters? Barthel asked the senior Navy fire investigator, who agreed there probably was.

Navy prosecutors argued the case had been fully investigated. They collected over 28,000 pages of material and hours of video to build their case.

Defense lawyers objected to the hearing, saying they did not have enough time to review the evidence against Mays.

Dozens of Navy officials, including several admirals, face disciplinary action for systematic failures that investigators say prevented the blaze from being put out sooner, investigators say.

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