US Navy charges 20-year-old sailor with setting fire that destroyed USS Bonhomme Richard last July, reports say

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A 20-year-old Navy sailor has been charged with starting a fire on an amphibious assault ship last summer that injured more than 60 firefighters and caused billions in damage.

The sailor, who was not named in the Navy's statement but identified by the San Diego Union-Tribune as Seaman Apprentice Ryan Mays, was charged with aggravated arson and the willful hazarding of a vessel. He was 19 at the time and worked on the vessel, according to the warrant, also obtained by The Daily Beast.

The 22-year-old USS Bonhomme Richard burst into flames on July 12, 2020, and smoldered for more than four days off San Diego. More than 60 sailors and civilians were treated for minor injuries, heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

The ship was decommissioned in November 2020 after an assessment determined repairs to the ship would cost $3 billion and take five to seven years.

Evidence collected in the following investigation was enough to accuse Mays of starting the fire, Cmdr. Sean Robertson, U.S. 3rd Fleet spokesperson, said in a statement.

Other information was not available, and the evidence was unclear from the statement. A preliminary hearing "in accordance with due process under the military justice system" will take place, Robertson said.

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The fire started in the ship’s lower storage area, where cardboard boxes, rags and other maintenance supplies were stored, but winds quickly swept fire throughout the vessel.

The Bonhomme Richard was commissioned in 1998. Its full crew was about 1,000 sailors and it could ferry an additional 2,000 Marines to battlefields; in July, the crew numbers stood at 160. At 844 feet in length, the ship was second only to an aircraft carrier in size and could accommodate helicopters and warplanes such as F-35 and large hovercraft to bring Marines ashore.

"I know this ship’s legacy will continue to live on through the brave men and women who fought so hard to save her, as well as the Sailors and Marines who served aboard her during her 22-year history," Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite said in a statement in November, when the vessel was decommissioned.

Contributing: Jessica Flores and Tom Vandenbrook, USA TODAY; Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USS Bonhomme Richard: Navy charges sailor with setting fire in