21-Year-Old Found Not Guilty For $1 Billion Fire

US Navy Vessel Destroyed By Fire

A sailor accused of starting a fire on a Navy warship docked in San Diego has been found not guilty.

After a court martial in which a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence that Mays caused the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard more than two years ago, Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays was acquitted of charges of willful hazarding of a vessel and aggravated arson.

Mays collapsed on the table and sobbed after the verdict was read, his defense attorney Gary Barthel said, feeling as if a thousand pounds had been lifted.

In an interview outside the courthouse, Mays said that he was “grateful that this is finally over” and that it was “the most difficult two years of my life.”

“I have lost time with my friends. I have lost friends. My entire Navy career was ruined, and I’ve lost time with my family.” Mays said. “I am looking forward to a fresh start.”

In a statement, Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson said, “Seaman Recruit Mays was found not guilty of the charges of willful hazarding of a vessel and aggravated arson.” “We support due process and fair trials in our Navy,” Robertson said.

Fires raged for four days aboard the billion-dollar amphibious assault ship before they were finally put out, destroying the vessel. When the fire broke out, the USS Bonhomme Richard was undergoing upgrades to accommodate Marine Corps F-35B fighter jets.

Following the fire, the Navy accused Mays of being responsible. At the time, Mays was a member of the ship’s crew.

Nevertheless, Mays’ defense attorney argued that the evidence was never strong and that the judge recommended not proceeding.

“From the beginning, I thought this case was weak,” Barthel said.

In spite of this, the court martial was conducted, resulting in a two-week trial that ended in a not guilty verdict.

Instead of acknowledging the problems on board that allowed the fire to spread, Barthel said the Navy needed someone to blame for the fire that destroyed an entire ship.

According to a Navy investigation released last October, the fire was “clearly preventable” and was caused by systematic failure in the processes on board.

An investigation found 36 Navy personnel were responsible for the errors and breakdowns, including the commander of the USS Bonhomme Richard and five admirals.

Investigation found that even before the fire, the condition of the ship was “significantly degraded,” including firefighting equipment, heat detection capabilities, and communications equipment, allowing the fire to spread faster. On 14 consecutive occasions before the fire, the ship’s crew failed firefighting drills, including failing to apply firefighting chemicals during drills.

As a result of the fire, the Navy announced in July that it would punish more than 20 sailors. A number of serious actions were taken against the warship’s leadership and its firefighting team. Ex-commanding officer Capt. Gregory Scott Thoroman and ex-executive officer Capt. Michael Ray received punitive letters of reprimand and forfeiture of pay. Jose Hernandez, the former command master chief, received a letter of reprimand.

For more on this story, please consider these sources:

  1. Sailor found not guilty of starting 2020 fire that destroyed a $1 billion U.S. Navy vessel  NBC News
  2. Sailor charged with starting fire that destroyed Navy ship found not guilty  CNN
  3. Flood of emotions from 21-year-old sailor found not guilty in USS Bonhomme Richard trial  CBS 8 San Diego
  4. Sailor Found Not Guilty of Setting Fire to USS Bonhomme Richard | San Diego News Daily  NBC San Diego
  5. Naval sailor acquitted of arson in fire that destroyed USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego  Fox News
John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.