Sailor charged with starting fire that destroyed Navy ship found not guilty

The fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard more than two years ago.

A sailor charged in connection with starting a fire that destroyed a Navy warship while it was docked in San Diego has been found not guilty.

Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays was acquitted on charges of willful hazarding of a vessel and aggravated arson, the Navy said in a statement, following a court martial in which a judge ruled there was not enough evidence that Mays set the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard more than two years ago.

After the judge issued the verdict, Mays collapsed on the table and sobbed, his defense attorney Gary Barthel said, feeling as if a thousand-pound weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

Outside the courthouse, Mays said he was “grateful that this is finally over” and called it “the hardest two years of my entire life.”

“I’ve lost time with friends. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost time with family, and my entire Navy career was ruined,” Mays said. “I am looking forward to starting over.”

A Navy spokesperson, Cmdr. Sean Robertson with the US 3rd Fleet, told CNN in a statement, “Seaman Recruit Mays was found not guilty on the charges of willful hazarding of a vessel and aggravated arson. The Navy is committed to upholding the principles of due process and a fair trial.”

The fire on board the amphibious assault ship raged for four days before it was finally extinguished, destroying the ship and forcing the Navy to scrap the billion-dollar vessel. The USS Bonhomme Richard had been in port for upgrades to allow it to accommodate Marine Corps F-35B fighter jets when the fire broke out.

One year after the fire, the Navy charged that Mays was responsible. Mays had been a member of the ship’s crew at the time.

AI Bot running SUBSIM, what could go wrong?!