Navy report blames crew for devastating fire on the Bonhomme Richard

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Image source, US Navy via Getty Images
Image caption,
The USS Bonhomme fire in 2020 took four days to put out

A US Navy report has concluded that major failures within the military command chain allowed a fire to destroy a US warship, according to US media.

The USS Bonhomme Richard burned for four days in San Diego, California in July 2020. The fire injured 40 sailors and 23 civilians.

The new report identifies 36 sailors, including five admirals, as having contributed to the loss of the ship.

It also identifies multiple cascading failures in the fire response.

Arson charges have been filed against one sailor who allegedly started the blaze out of animosity towards commanders, but the new report finds that a lack of response allowed the fire to grow rapidly in size.

"Although the fire was started by an act of arson, the ship was lost due to an inability to extinguish the fire," wrote US 3rd Fleet commander Vice Adm Scott Conn, who is overseeing the investigation.

US media say the report lays out multiple mistakes made in the first few minutes of the blaze.

Troops failed to alert others to the fire for a full 10 minutes after spotting it, and never activated the firefighting foam system, the report found.

"A pattern of failed drills, minimal crew participation, an absence of basic knowledge on firefighting" left the sailors unprepared, and unable to properly co-ordinate firefighting efforts with civilian officials, it found.

Media caption,
The fire broke out on the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego, California

The report has not yet been made public and it is unclear if any of the 36 individuals have been punished by commanders.

The US Navy has yet to respond to a BBC News request for comment.

The 40,000-tonne, $1bn (£716m) USS Bonhomme Richard was commissioned in 1998 and was one of the few amphibious vessels from which an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft could take off.

The Navy has since decided to decommission and scrap the ship due to the damage.

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