Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, the commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet, will consider whether to proceed with a court-martial, Robertson said.
Separately, the Navy has two other investigations underway that are reviewing the circumstances involving the fire. One is focused on safety aspects of the case, while the other will examine circumstances within the command when the fire occurred.
The blaze swept across the 14-deck, 40,000-ton ship on July 12, 2020, after beginning in a cargo hold, Navy officials have said. Flames burst from openings in the ship, and black smoke belched for miles. At times, the temperature inside the ship exceeded 1,000 degrees, Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said in a meeting with reporters last summer. Wind also played a significant factor in the fire spreading, he said.
The ship had a small crew at the time while at pier to receive $250 million in upgrades. About 400 sailors from 16 vessels assisted in putting the fire out, along with helicopter crews who dumped water on it, Gilday said.
Sailors who fought the fire have described in interviews a terrifying situation in which metal twisted and each deck above the ship’s waterline suffered damage. No sailor or firefighter suffered serious injuries, but a few dozen people were treated for smoke inhalation.
“I’m not going to lie — I was scared,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Hayley Craig, a sailor aboard the ship, recounted to a handful of reporters alongside the burned-out ship in September. “I think everybody was. You couldn’t really see nothing. It was incredibly hot. I didn’t know your body could take that much heat.”
In the days after the fire, Navy officials declined to say whether the ship would be scrapped. But in November, the service announced it would scrap the ship after assessing that repairing it would cost between $2.5 billion and $3.2 billion. Scrapping the ship is expected to cost the Navy about $30 million. The vessel was decommissioned in April, and towed to Texas through the Panama Canal.
The loss of the Bonhomme Richard has complicated deployment schedules and the Navy’s ability to project power at sea. The ship was one of 10 amphibious assault ships the service was considering using in unconventional ways in the growing U.S. competition against China, including as a miniature aircraft carrier for F-35B jets.