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Series of ‘causal factors' resulted in fire risk and damage to amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, US Navy report finds

A series of “causal factors” led to the fire risk and damage of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), a US Navy investigation found. (US Navy)

Different categories of “causal factors … allowed for the accumulation of significant risk and led to an ineffective fire response” for the 12 July 2020 blaze that caused the damage and eventual decommissioning of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), according to the US Pacific Fleet Command Investigation released on 20 October.

The investigation identified the four categories of causal factors: the material condition of the ship, the training and readiness of the ship's crew, the integration – or the lack of it – between the ship and supporting shore-based firefighting organisations, and the oversight by commanders across multiple organisations.

The command investigation concluded that “a lack of familiarity with requirements and procedural non-compliance at multiple levels of command” contributed to the loss of ship.

In releasing the report, Admiral Bill Lescher, vice chief of naval operations (VCNO), emphasised the navy's commitment to making “urgent and necessary changes” to correct the deficiencies and related root causes that led to the Bonhomme Richard fire.

“The loss of this ship was completely preventable,” Adm Lescher said in a statement. “And the navy is executing a deliberative process that includes taking appropriate accountability actions with respect to personnel assigned to Bonhomme Richard and the shore commands designed to support the ship while moored at Naval Base San Diego.”

Based on a separate criminal investigation, US 3rd Fleet command also preferred charges against one sailor, who is charged with aggravated arson and hazarding a vessel. A preliminary hearing for the sailor is scheduled for mid-November, navy officials said.

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