The Navy last week released records from Admiral’s Mast disciplinary hearings held late last year in connection to the 2020 fire aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard.
The amphib caught fire while undergoing maintenance in San Diego in July 2020 and burned for several days, forcing the Navy to later sell the warship for scrap and reform how the service handles fire risks while vessels are in the yards.
Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer at the time, Capt. Gregory Thoroman, received a written reprimand and $5,000 pay forfeiture at his December 2021 mast hearing, which was convened by the head of U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Samuel Paparo.
Thoroman was found to have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s Article 92 by failing “in his absolute responsibility for the safety, well-being and efficiency of the ship,” according to the heavily redacted records.
The other officers and senior enlisted sailors who had mast hearings were also found to have violated Article 92, failure to obey an order or regulation.
Thoroman’s second-in-command at the time, Capt. David M. Ray, also received a written reprimand and a $5,000 fine for failing to ensure that Bonhomme Richard’s crew understood and observed firefighting safety precautions aboard the ship, and for failing to ensure the command was advised on the ship’s survivability readiness, according to the records.
The ship’s command master chief at the time, Master Chief Damage Controlman Jose Hernandez Jr., received a written reprimand for failing “to actively teach, uphold and enforce standards,” and for negligently failing to advise Thoroman “in matters pertaining to welfare, utilization and training of sailors.”
Bonhomme Richard’s chief engineering officer, a damage control assistant and a chief damage controlman were also taken to mast, although their names are redacted in the records released to the public.
Each received a written reprimand for their offenses.
The Admiral’s Mast records release comes roughly two months after a military judge acquitted a junior enlisted sailor whom the Navy had charged with starting the Bonhomme Richard blaze.
Ryan Sawyer Mays’ acquittal in September came after a nine-day trial in which no physical evidence tying Mays to the fire was presented. His defense attorneys also questioned the credibility of a key witness.
The Navy announced in July that it had disciplined more than two dozen services members for their roles in the fire, and the cascade of systemic failures that allowed the ship to burn for several days.
Chief among the actions was a letter of censure issued by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro against now-retired Vice Adm. Richard Brown, who was serving as the commander of Naval Surface Forces when the blaze occurred.
In addition, Paparo issued letters of instruction to Rear Adm. Scott Brown, Pacific Fleet’s director of fleet maintenance, and Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, the commanding officer of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.