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Trial set in September for sailor accused in USS Bonhomme Richard arson

ryan mays
Navy Ship Fire
Posted at 3:43 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 18:59:04-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — A trial has been scheduled in September in the case of a San Diego-based Navy sailor accused of setting fire to the USS Bonhomme Richard, it was announced Wednesday.

Seaman Ryan Sawyer Mays is charged with arson and willful hazarding of a vessel for allegedly setting the blaze that began July 12, 2020, and burned for several days while the warship was docked at Naval Base San Diego.

Prosecutors have alleged that Mays was "disgruntled" with the Navy after dropping out of the SEAL training program.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Fire
200712-N-BL599-1044 SAN DIEGO – Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department boats combat a fire on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego, July 12. On the morning of July 12, a fire was called away aboard the ship while it was moored pier side at Naval Base San Diego. Local, base and shipboard firefighters responded to the fire. USS Bonhomme Richard is going through a maintenance availability, which began in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross)

Mays has denied any role in the fire, though other sailors have testified to seeing him enter the ship's "Lower V" area -- where investigators say the fire originated -- just prior to the blaze breaking out.

Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, the commander of the San Diego-based U.S. 3rd Fleet, ordered last month that Mays should go to trial on the charges, though Mays' defense attorneys say another officer recommended against the case proceeding to trial.

That officer, Capt. Angela Tang, heard three days of evidence during an Article 32 hearing last year in a Naval Base San Diego courtroom.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Fire
SAN DIEGO (July 12, 2020) - Sailors and Federal Fire San Diego firefighters combat a fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) July 12.

During the hearing, prosecutors alleged the blaze was sparked by someone touching an open flame to an ignitable liquid applied to tri-wall containers in the Lower V. Defense expert witnesses challenged findings that the blaze was an incendiary -- or deliberate -- fire, and said further analysis of the scene should have been completed before investigators ruled out possible accidental causes of the blaze.

A Navy spokesman said the trial is currently scheduled to last from Sept. 19 through Sept. 30.

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