The US military court announced that Ryan Mays, the sailor accused of burning the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, was acquitted.
Sailor Ryan Mays, 21, has been on trial since last week on charges of aggravated arson and willful destruction of the ship. Prosecutors allege that Mays was an arrogant sailor who set fire to the fire after being upset over his failure to recruit SEALs. Meanwhile, Mays denied the allegation. Defense attorneys say the US Navy used Mays as a “scapegoat” to cover up the mismanagement of senior officers.
On September 30, San Diego military court judge Derek Butler ruled Mays acquitted. He said there was not enough evidence to prove the sailor was the one who started the fire.
After being acquitted, Mays collapsed on the table crying. Gary Barthel, Mays’ defense attorney, said the client feels like a weight has been lifted. Mays expressed “grateful that this is finally over” and called the period “the hardest two years of my life”.
“I lost time with my friends. I lost friends too. I lost time with my family and my entire career in the navy,” Mays said outside court. “I’m looking forward to starting over.”
The $1.4 billion USS Bonhomme Richard amphibious assault ship caught fire on the morning of July 12, 2020 while anchored for maintenance at the San Diego military port, California. The fire was extinguished after four days, when the fire had spread to the superstructure and caused the bridge to collapse.
63 sailors and firefighters were injured in the explosion or in the process of putting out the fire. The US Navy assessed the USS Bonhomme Richard as about 60% damaged and decided not to repair it because it was too expensive and took too long. This force then removed the border and spent about 30 million USD to dismantle the ship.
The US Navy in October 2021 released an investigation report stating that the fire was the result of a series of errors and incidents involving 36 service members, including senior commanders. Even before the fire broke out, the firefighting, heat detection and communication equipment on the ship had deteriorated significantly. The ship’s crew also had poor firefighting capabilities.
Hong Hanh (Theo CNN)