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Trial set in September for sailor accused in USS Bonhomme Richard arson

Navy Ship Fire
Gregory Bull / Associated Press
Navy Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays arrives for a hearing at Naval Base San Diego Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, in San Diego. The Navy is set to hold a hearing to review whether there is enough evidence to order a court martial for a San Diego-based sailor charged with setting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard in the summer of 2020.

A trial has been scheduled in September in the case of a San Diego-based Navy sailor accused of setting fire to the USS Bonhomme Richard, it was announced Wednesday.

Seaman Ryan Sawyer Mays is charged with arson and willful hazarding of a vessel for allegedly setting the blaze that began July 12, 2020, and burned for several days while the warship was docked at Naval Base San Diego.

Prosecutors have alleged that Mays was "disgruntled" with the Navy after dropping out of the SEAL training program.


Mays has denied any role in the fire, though other sailors have testified to seeing him enter the ship's "Lower V" area -- where investigators say the fire originated -- just prior to the blaze breaking out.

Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, the commander of the San Diego-based U.S. 3rd Fleet, ordered last month that Mays should go to trial on the charges, though Mays' defense attorneys say another officer recommended against the case proceeding to trial.

That officer, Capt. Angela Tang, heard three days of evidence during an Article 32 hearing last year in a Naval Base San Diego courtroom.

During the hearing, prosecutors alleged the blaze was sparked by someone touching an open flame to an ignitable liquid applied to tri-wall containers in the Lower V. Defense expert witnesses challenged findings that the blaze was an incendiary — or deliberate — fire, and said further analysis of the scene should have been completed before investigators ruled out possible accidental causes of the blaze.


A Navy spokesman said the trial is currently scheduled to last from Sept. 19 through Sept. 30.