USS Bonhomme Richard: Sailor accused of setting fire to warship was ‘angry about being assigned to deck duty’, court martial hears | US News

A young sailor accused of setting fire to a US Navy warship was angered by being assigned to deck duties after failing to become a Navy SEAL, according to prosecutors.

Ryan Sawyer Mays, 21, was charged with aggravated arson and intentionally damaging a ship – charges he has denied.

On the first day of the trial at Naval Station San Diego, prosecutor general Leah O’Brien described Mays as arrogant, adding that the arson was “an act of defiance of wrongdoing.” left”.

US Navy sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays walks past reporters at Naval Base San Diego before entering the Navy courtroom Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. Photo: AP
Image of sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays of the US Navy in August. Photo: AP

The USS Bonhomme Richard burned for nearly five days in July 2020, sending smoke billowing across San Diego, where the ship received a major upgrade.

About 115 sailors on board and nearly 60 people suffered from heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation and minor injuries.

The ship was so badly damaged that it had to be scuttled.

But Mays’ military defense attorney, Lieutenant Tayler Haggerty, said prosecutors had produced no physical evidence to prove he was behind the fire.

She said investigators ignored evidence and eyewitness accounts, so they could find the scapegoat for the loss of an expensive ship mismanaged by senior officers.

Satire and sarcasm

Once they had identified the culprit as Mays, a sailor known to be sarcastic and sassy, ​​”nothing else mattered,” she added.

“Just because the government removes, ignores, pieces of evidence, that doesn’t mean the courts should do the same.”

U.S. Navy helicopters and city firefighters continue to fight fires aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego, in San Diego, California, U.S. July 13, 2020. REUTERS / Mike Blake

The trial, scheduled to last two weeks and before the Navy judge, Captain Derek Butler, was thwarted by multiple witnesses who could not remember what happened on the day of the fire.

‘I can’t remember much’

Petty officer Jeffrey Garvin, the warship’s former fire governor, held back tears when questioned by prosecutors about that day, saying: “I’m still trying to get through this during therapy. I apologize. error.”

Then he said, “I can’t remember much.”

More than 20 senior officers and sailors were disciplined by Navy leaders in connection with what have been described as widespread leadership failures that contributed to the disaster.

A Navy report last year said fire damage was preventable and unacceptable, blaming a lack of training, coordination, communication, fire readiness, equipment maintenance, and firefighting. be and command and control.

Several crew members testified that the storage area below where the fire started was filled with bottles, tools, generators, tractors and other equipment.

Defense attorneys say investigators ignored the fact that lithium batteries were stored next to combustible materials such as cardboard boxes and there was evidence indicating that another sailor was fired from the Navy .

The trial continues.

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