Navy Releases Admiral’s Mast Results from Bonhomme Richard Fire

U.S. Pacific Fleet has released the results of an admiral’s masts held last year for the former leadership and crew members of amphibious warship Bonhomme Richard. Former Bonhomme Richard commander Capt. Gregory Thoroman, executive officer Capt. Michael Ray and the ship’s senior enlisted sailor, Command Master Chief Jose Hernandez, were all found guilty of violations […]

Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department boats combat a fire on board USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) at Naval Base San Diego on July 12, 2020. US Navy Photo

U.S. Pacific Fleet has released the results of an admiral’s masts held last year for the former leadership and crew members of amphibious warship Bonhomme Richard.

Former Bonhomme Richard commander Capt. Gregory Thoroman, executive officer Capt. Michael Ray and the ship’s senior enlisted sailor, Command Master Chief Jose Hernandez, were all found guilty of violations of Article 92 – failure to obey an order or regulation – for their roles in the 2020 fire that resulted in the loss of the ship. The other three sailors punished at mast include an unidentified damage control officer, Bonhomme Richard’s chief engineer and a senior enlisted damage control sailor.

USNI News obtained the heavily redacted list of punishments, issued in December by U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Samuel Paparo, on Wednesday. The punishments were originally reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this week.

The heaviest penalties fell on Thoroman and Ray, who were each fined $5,000 each and given written reprimands for their role in the fire.

Thoroman was found guilty at mast of two specifications of violating Article 92 – violating Navy regulations to adequately train his crew and dereliction of duty in that he “negligently failed in his absolute responsibility for the safety, well-being and efficiency of the ship, as it was his duty to do.” He faced three other specifications under the charge, but they were redacted in the charge sheet reviewed by USNI News.

Executive officer Ray was found guilty of Article 92 in two specifications of dereliction of duty in that he “negligently failed to ensure that firefighting safety precautions aboard Bonhomme Richard in an availability were understood and strictly observed” and “negligently failed to keep the command advised of the status of the ship’s survivability readiness,” according to the charges. Ray faced two other specifications under the charge, but they were redacted in the charge sheet reviewed by USNI News.

CMC Hernandez received a written reprimand for Article 92 violations under two specifications for dereliction of duty by failing to enforce crew standards aboard Bonhomme Richard during his time as CMC and failing to advise Thoroman of the welfare of the crew. Hernandez faced at least one other specification under the charge, but they were redacted in the charge sheet reviewed by USNI News.

The Navy issued a written reprimand to an unidentified commander who served as the damage control assistant for violating three specifications under Article 92. The three specifications are violating a direct order from Thoroman by entering the ship during the fire on July 14, 2020, failing to oversee the “prevention and control of damage” prior to the fire and failing to properly train and supervise the ship’s in port emergency team. The officer faced two other specifications under the charge, but they were redacted in the charge sheet reviewed by USNI News.

The ship’s chief engineer was found guilty of violating Article 92 in two specifications for failing to provide backup power to the ship and failing to stow hazardous materials. The Navy issued him a written reprimand. The chief engineer faced seven other specifications under the charge, but they were redacted in the charge sheet reviewed by USNI News.

A ship’s damage controlman chief petty officer was found guilty of violating Article 92 in one specification for failing to repair two of the ship’s Aqueous Film Forming Foam stations aboard the ship. The chief petty officer faced four other specifications under the charge, but they were redacted in the charge sheet reviewed by USNI News.

Paparo served as the consolidated decision authority who oversaw accountability actions following a 2021 investigation led by former U.S. 3rd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Scott Conn, who identified 36 individuals who had a share in the responsibility for the fire.

“The disposition decisions included six Nonjudicial Punishments (NJP) with guilty findings, two NJPs with Matter of Interest Filings (MIF) and a Letter of Instruction (LOI), two NJP dismissals with a warning, one additional MIF, five other LOIs, three Non-Punitive Letters of Caution (NPLOC), two letters to former sailors documenting substandard performance, and six no-action determinations,” according to a July statement from the service.
“Paparo’s CDA accountability actions were primarily focused on USS Bonhomme Richard’s leadership and the fire response team.”

In addition to the CDA determination, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro censured former Naval Surface Forces commander retired Vice Adm. Rich Brown for failing to “oversee ships’ fire safety readiness in maintenance availabilities,” according to a copy of the July 15 letter obtained by USNI News.