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USS Bonhomme Richard fire trial day 3: Expert testimony focuses on batteries

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Fire
Posted at 5:34 PM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 20:34:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — New information emerged in day three of the trial for a Navy sailor accused of setting a fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard.

Seaman Ryan Mays is being charged with arson.

In the courtroom on Wednesday, batteries were the focus of expert testimony.

The defense was trying to prove that improperly stored batteries caused the fire — not their client. But prosecutors called an electrical engineer to the stand, who said the batteries had fire damage, but were not the cause.

The defense also brought in a lieutenant who was on duty with Mays, and they went into detail about Mays' attitude in the time leading up to the fire.

Prosecutors brought Michael Abraham, who is an electrical engineer and fire research expert, to the stand. Prosecutors showed various images of CT scans of lithium batteries, explaining the 3D images were examined for signs of failures or damages.

Abrahams testimony was that all eight batteries found aboard the Bonhomme Richard were uniformly damaged both internally and externally. He says that shows consistent signs of fire damage, and not internal failure.

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However, the defense tried to argue that while the damage on the batteries may be consistent with heat infringement, that does not mean it is.

Prosecutors harped on the fact that Abraham, who spent 11 days on ship during the investigation, did not take any notes of the damages on the batteries when first seen or took photos of them.

Abraham said a request may have been made to take photos, but he is not sure what happened and why none were taken.

Abraham also testified that he knew the batteries he scanned were from the ship. But when the defense asked him to identify five of the eight batteries in court, he said he could not identify which were which without proper labeling and paperwork.

The second witness brought to the stand was Mays' supervisor, JG Lounsbury. Prosecutors claimed Mays was in an unpleasant mood because he had to move out of his sleeping quarters unexpectedly.

Meanwhile, the defense claimed the reason Mays was upset was because contractors were conducting hot-work unannounced in his living space.

Prosecutors shared a text from Mays to Lounsbury expressing his frustration. The defense during cross examination shared while Lounsbury did not appreciate Mays' tone, he never did anything to suggest he was unhappy on board.

A key witness is expected to take the stand Thursday. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

If Mays is found guilty, he could serve a life in prison.