Bonhomme Richard’s former captain, chief executive fined $5,000 each in San Diego ship fire, records show
The former commanding officers and executive officers of the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard have each been fined $5,000 as punishment for failing to prepare the ship and its crew to fight the July 2020 fire that destroyed the ship, according to records obtained by the Union-Tribune broadcast.
The officers – Capt. Gregory Thoroman, the ship’s former captain, and Capt. David Ray, the executive officer – were among 22 sailors who received administrative action from the service after the fire, the Navy announced in July. .
The officers’ non-judicial sanction records were released last week in response to a freedom of information law request filed by the Union-Tribune. The service released records for only six of the 27 Sailors whose actions before and during the fire were reviewed by Commander, Pacific Fleet, Adm. Samuel Paparo. The Union-Tribune filed an appeal on Friday for the rest of the files.
Records of the six released sailors show that all received written reprimands, with only Thoroman and Ray being fined. Non-judicial punishment records are heavily redacted, with details of specific charges removed and the names of three sailors withheld. The third sailor named is the ship’s former chief of command, Jose Hernandez.
The cases of the six sailors were tried in December – seven months before the Navy announced the results in July. Other sailors subject to the Admiral’s review received letters of instruction or warning. The review focused on the ship’s fire prevention, fire preparedness and response, the Navy said.
The July 2020 fire burned for nearly five days, destroying most of the ship above her waterline. Marine wrecked the ship in 2021.
The Navy determined the fire was deliberately started and charged a young sailor with arson. The sailor was acquitted of the charge before a military court martial in September. He is still on active duty in San Diego, according to a 3rd Fleet spokesperson.
The Navy has also sought to hold San Diego leaders accountable.
The service’s investigation revealed that numerous deficiencies in training and material conditions on board made the 844-foot warship vulnerable to fires. The sailors lacked training and, although they had been able to fight the fire, the fire stations on board lacked equipment and an automated foam system was inoperative when the fire broke out.
His investigation identified three dozen other Navy officials and sailors who bore some responsibility, from crew members to civilian and high-ranking officials overseeing the modernization of the $250 million ship.
Thoroman was reprimanded for failing to “instruct and train staff” on duty section composition and safety precautions, his non-judicial sanctions report says. The fire started on a Sunday morning when the ship was only manned with its weekend service section – about a sixth of the crew.
His reprimand also included an accusation of dereliction of duty since, as captain, he had “absolute responsibility” for the safety and well-being of the ship.
Three of Thoroman’s five non-judicial punishment specifications have been redacted.
Ray was also reprimanded for dereliction of duty, his non-judicial sanctions report says. As executive officer, Navy says he failed to ensure crew understood and followed firefighting safety precautions on ship while under maintenance . He also did not keep command informed of his survivability, the report said.
Two of the four specs against Ray have been redacted.
Hernandez, the command’s chief captain and highest-ranking enlisted sailor on board, was also reprimanded for dereliction of duty because he failed to teach and enforce standards among the crew and “failed by negligence” of adviser Thoroman on the welfare and training of seafarers on board. , says his report.
The other three non-judicial sanction cases involved the ship’s chief engineer, his damage control assistant and a damage control official – all anonymous. The chief was reprimanded for failing to restore two onboard firefighting foam stations as he had been ordered to do a week before the fire, according to his report. These foam stations were not fully operational at the time of the fire and had been falsely approved as functional during maintenance checks three months before the fire, the Navy investigation found.
The former damage control assistant, a commanding officer, was reprimanded for entering the ship on the second day of the fire after Thoroman gave orders not to, the report said. He was also cited for dereliction of duty for failing to train the ship’s emergency team in port and preventing the ship from sustaining damage.
The ship’s chief engineer failed to provide emergency power to the ship and did not properly stow hazardous materials, his non-judicial sanction report says. Seven of the nine Chief Engineer’s Specifications were written by the Navy.
Senior off-ship officers were also administratively sanctioned, the service said in its July announcement. Letters of instruction were sent to Rear Admiral Scott Brown, director of fleet maintenance, Pacific Fleet, and Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage, commander of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center.
Vice Admiral Richard Brown, who is now retired but was the commander of the Naval Surface Force at the time of the fire, received a letter of censure from Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro.
The service revamped its port firefighting and prevention programs in the two years since the blaze, Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener, commander of San Diego-based naval surface forces, told reporters. journalists in August. Citing confusion during the first hours of the fire, Kitchener said the Navy established a clear chain of command during such incidents. Surface force commanders – one on the west coast and another on the east coast – will now be in charge on the ground during any major fires.
Changes to the fire prevention program for vessels undergoing maintenance and more firefighting resources at Navy docks are also in the workshe said, and ships are holding more firefighting training and drills.
“We’ve fundamentally changed the way we look at firefighting in ports,” Kitchener told reporters. “At all times vigilance is essential.”