SAN DIEGO — The sailor accused of beginning a fireplace that basically destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard, a 41,000-ton amphibious assault vessel, was discovered not responsible Friday of beginning the blaze that burned for days.
U.S. Navy Capt. Derek Butler discovered deck seaman Ryan Sawyer Mays, 21, not responsible of aggravated arson and the willful hazarding of a vessel.
“I’m so grateful that that is lastly over,” Mays stated exterior court docket Friday at Naval Base San Diego.
The Navy’s Naval Prison Investigative Service centered its probe on Mays, however a command investigation in 2021 additionally stated 17 sailors and 5 admirals failed duties that contributed to the blaze on July 12, 2020. Most have been disciplined.
The ship was house to hazardous supplies improperly saved, muddle and hearth strains that have been lacking, the investigation discovered. Almost 90% of its hearth stations weren’t working the morning of the fireplace, the company stated. Sailors weren’t correctly skilled and prepared for the calamity, it stated.
The presence of latest tinder — lithium ion batteries close to cardboard packing containers — might have contributed to the fireplace’s depth and attain, investigators discovered. The overall destruction was preventable, the command investigation concluded.
Gary Barthel, a civilian lawyer who served as a marketing consultant for the protection, stated questions in regards to the hearth’s origin by no means gave the impression to be answered by the Navy.
“There are questions on whether or not Ryan Mays began this hearth,” he stated in mid-September.
In an announcement Friday, Lt. Samuel R. Boyle, a spokesman for U.S third Fleet, stated, “the Navy is dedicated to upholding the ideas of due course of and a good trial.”
Mays, who was 19 when the fireplace began and despatched smoke over San Diego for days, stays with the Navy. He was demoted to seaman recruit from the rank of seaman apprentice Jan. 11.
He was assigned to the USS Bonhomme Richard after dropping out of SEALs coaching, and Navy prosecutors stated in charging paperwork he was “disgruntled” in consequence.
His protection workforce stated Mays was no extra disgruntled than some other sailor assigned to cleanup duties, as he was.
On Friday, the Washington, D.C.-based Brandon Caserta Basis, based to advertise psychological well being within the navy castigated the Navy for pursuing the case towards Mays.
“Accountable dropping a ship on a former Navy SEAL candidate as a result of he was thought of ‘disgruntled’ is among the most evil issues the Navy might do,” the nonprofit’s president, Teri Caserta, stated in an announcement. “There was no proof of Mays being an arsonist.”
Seventeen sailors and 4 civilians have been injured within the hearth that gutted a minimum of 60 % of the ship. The 840-foot vessel, which displaces roughly 41 tons and was designed to assist land U.S. Marines throughout fight missions, remained watertight.
In late 2020, the Navy determined it could be extra cost-efficient to scrap the $1 billion ship than to rebuild it.
Mays on Friday stated his Navy profession had been “ruined” by the accusations.
“I am trying ahead to beginning over,” he stated.
West Level legislation professor Gary Solis stated he was stunned to see the Navy fail to prosecute after two years.
“I’m past stunned,” he stated by e-mail. “However, in legal trials, navy or civilian, the query is just not ‘did the accused do it?/ however, ‘Can the federal government show that he did it?’
Erick Mendoza, Melissa Adan and Invoice Feather contributed.