Over 2 Dozen Officers, Sailors Punished by US Navy for Wrecked Warship

The U.S. Navy announced Friday that more than 20 sailors were punished for the four-day fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard amphibious assault ship in San Diego in July 2020.

The response focused on the warship’s leadership and the fire response team.

Captain Gergory Scott Thoroman, the former commanding officer of the ship, and former executive officer Captain Michael Ray both received punitive letters of reprimand and forfeiture of pay. Former Command Master Chief Jose Hernandez also received a similar punitive letter of reprimand.

The punishments were decided by the Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), led by Admiral Samuel Papero, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Three admirals, including retired commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Vice Admiral Richard Brown, received letters from Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.

Brown, who received a Secretarial Letter of Censure, “failed to identify and mitigate against the lack of oversight that contributed to the loss of the ship,” Del Toro wrote.

Officers and sailors aboard the ship who ranked lower received a number of nonjudicial punishments by the CDA.

The Bonhomme Richard had been in port to receive upgrades that would have enabled it to carry Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter jets. As a result of the fire, the Navy was forced to scrap the billion-dollar vessel.

The Navy considered converting the ship into another vessel, such as a hospital ship, but the conversion would cost over $1 billion—even more than building a brand-new ship.

In November 2020, the commander of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center, Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage, told reporters, “We reached the conclusion we needed to de-commission the platform.” Scrapping the vessel and decommissioning would cost an approximate $30 million and take around 9 to 12 months.

The punishments announced by the Navy are not connected to the ongoing criminal case concerning seaman apprentice Ryan Mays, the person accused of causing the fire. At the time of the fire in July 2020, Mays was part of the ship’s crew. His lawyer continues to defend his innocence on the matter.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William Lescher said, “Losing Bonhomme Richard to this fire was preventable.”
“We are making significant changes in the way the Navy learns and leads so that this does not happen again.”