During military hearing, witnesses testify about Navy warship arson suspect.
US Navy prosecutors alleged during the first day of a preliminary hearing at Naval Base San Diego that the sailor who is accused of starting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard was ‘disgruntled’ after dropping out of SEAL training.
Seaman Ryan Mays was angry about his reassignment to the Bonhomme Richard and lied to his family about his SEAL training, Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Rich Federico said at a preliminary hearing.
Mays was charged by the military with aggravated arson and the willful hazarding of a vessel over the July 2020 blaze, which burned for nearly five days and injured more than 60 sailors and civilians.
The Bonhomme Richard had been undergoing a two-year, $250 million upgrade while docked at Naval Base San Diego at the time of the blaze.
The court proceeding are known as an Article 32 hearing in the military justice system. The focus is to allow hearing officer, Navy Capt. Angela Tang, to determine if there is enough evidence to prosecute the sailor in connection with the July 2020 fire.
Mays is denying the charges against him. The first day of the hearing, the prosecution team laid the groundwork of this case.
[T]hat the fire, which burned for four days and led the Navy to scrap the ship this year, was intentionally set in the vessel’s lower vehicle storage area and that sailors onboard saw Mays going into the “Lower V” right before the blaze began.
Prosecutors said Mays was angry about being a deck seaman aboard the ship instead of a SEAL — the job he joined the Navy to do. Prosecutors said Mays had voluntarily dropped out of the Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school — known as BUD/S — on his fifth day there, then lied to his family and other sailors about why he didn’t make it.
Mays’ supervisor, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Beau Benson, testified Monday that Mays was unhappy working in the deck department of the ship.
“You could tell he didn’t want to be here,” Benson said. “You could tell he didn’t enjoy being in the fleet.”
The second day of the hearing focused on witness accounts.
Another witness who is a sailor described the moment that she said Mays discovered that he was being taken to the brig. She said that he mumbled, “I’m guilty. I guess I did it…it had to be done.”
This August, unsealed documents revealed possible sabotage of the firefighting efforts and tampering of evidence. A separate Navy report concluded that there were sweeping failures by both crew and command, calling the fire preventable and unacceptable.
The hearing will conclude Thursday.DONATE
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