A sailor suspected of starting a ship fire that burned for four days and caused $2.5 billion worth of damage, is facing criminal charges.
The US navy announced the charges of aggravated arson and willful hazarding of a vessel in a statement on Thursday, saying authorities have collected enough evidence to schedule a hearing in the case, reports the Washington Post.
Amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard was ablaze for days while ââpier-side at Naval Base San Diego last summer. It was eventually scrapped, needing $2.5 billion in repairs.
The accused sailor, a seaman apprentice, was a member of the Bonhomme Richard crew. He has not been publicly identified, said navy spokesman Commander Sean Robertson.
Vice Admiral Steve Koehler, the commander of US 3rd Fleet, will consider whether to proceed with a court-martial, Mr Robertson added.
Separately, the navy has two other investigations ongoing to examine the circumstances of the fire. One is regarding the safety particulars of the case, while the other will scrutinise aspects of the command when the fire occurred.
Sailors who battled the fire described a nightmarish blaze in which metal twisted, flames burst from openings in the ship, and black smoke poured out, reports the Washington Post.
“I’m not going to lie – I was scared,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Hayley Craig, a sailor aboard the ship, told reporters in September. “I think everybody was. You couldn’t really see nothing. It was incredibly hot. I didn’t know your body could take that much heat.”
A few dozen people were treated for smoke inhalation, but no sailors of firefighters suffered serious injuries.