22:15 GMT30 September 2020
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    A US defense official claims an ongoing federal probe into the July 12 fire that extensively damaged the USS Bonhomme Richard has led to suspicions of arson and the questioning of one sailor.

    Pentagon officials were recently notified that a US Navy sailor was taken in for questioning as part of an ongoing investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to a senior defense official who spoke with the Associated Press earlier this week.

    It’s worth noting that the sailor taken in for questioning was not detained by federal authorities. However, San Diego, California, outlet ABC 10News cited NCIS sources in reporting that “multiple search warrants” have been executed by federal agents on the sailor’s “home and property.”

    “The Navy will not comment on an ongoing investigation to protect the integrity of the investigative process and all those involved,” Navy spokesperson Lt. Tim Pietrack told the AP.

    “We have nothing to announce at this time.”

    According to Navy officials, it took “four days of firefighting” to extinguish the flames aboard the Bonhomme Richard, which has been left with extensive electrical, mechanical and structural damage. The fire reportedly began on July 12 in a storage area of the San Diego Bay-docked vessel.

    Though the full extent of the damage to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship remains unknown, Lt. Cmdr. Jae Park, engineer officer on the USS Stethem (DDG 63), has been directing overall damage control efforts and the more than 60 steelworkers tasked with reconstruction, according to a Tuesday release from the Department of Defense.

    Additional crew members from the Stethem have provided equipment and manpower for the firefighting and overhaul efforts.

    General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding was nearing the end of its two-year, approximately $250 million series of upgrades to the Bonhomme Richard when the fire broke out in July. NBC San Diego noted that 160 sailors who were onboard had to evacuate, and more than 60 sailors and civilians were treated for minor injuries, heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

    “The ship can be repaired; whether or not it will be repaired, that will be determined," Rear Adm. Philip E. Sobeck said back in July. Considering the ongoing repairs, it’s presumed the overhaul costs do not exceed the estimated $4 billion price tag to replace the Bonhomme Richard.

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    Tags:
    questioning, US Navy, amphibious vessels, USS Bonhomme Richard
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