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Accused Navy sailor claims he 'rushed to help' during USS Bonhomme Richard fire

ATF agent testifies about interviewing sailor accused of arson
Accused Navy sailor claims he 'rushed to help' when USS Bonhomme Richard started burning
Posted at 5:23 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 20:43:51-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A dramatic video involving an alternate theory and excerpts from a suspect interview highlighted the second day of trial for a sailor accused of setting the fire that burned the USS Bonhomme Richard over two years ago.

Takin the stand on Tuesday was an ATF specialist who interviewed Mays and then took him on a walkthrough of the ship. He says Mays repeatedly denied starting the fire that burned for nearly five days, injuring 60 and eventually scuttling the $1.2 billion ship.

When a shipwide announcement was made about a fire that day, Mays says he broke a broom over his knee and rushed to help, including refilling tanks used by firefighters for breathing.

But the ATF agent also pointed to inconsistencies. He says Mays' recounting of his actions right before the fire equalled about four minutes, but in reality, those actions should have taken much longer.

The same ATF agent also testified the origin of the fire is believed to be a storage area with vehicles and large cardboard boxes, which he believes were ignited with an accelerant.

“The prosecution is hoping to identify that the fire was incendiary in nature and not an accidental fire, either caused by a forklift or lithium ion batteries,” said Gary Barthel, Mays’ previous attorney who is observing the trial.

But what about that battery theory? Video was presented of an ATF test conducted with lithium batteries found in the storage area debris. In it, flames quickly consumed the cardboard boxes.

The ATF agent says scans of the batteries points to external heat as opposed to internal combustion. He did concede on cross examination that there were some internal ruptures in some batteries.

Mays faces life in prison if convicted. The trial expected to last about two weeks.