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Attorneys Argue Over Graffiti Confessions, Alternative Suspects in Bonhomme Richard Fire Criminal Hearing

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NAVAL STATION SAN DIEGO, Calif. – While firefighting crews and sailors massed at Naval Base San Diego’s Pier 2 to attack a fire spreading across former USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), a small fire scorched a mattress on another amphibious assault warship berthed a mile away.

That fire, on a rack in troop berthing aboard Wasp-class USS Essex (LHD-2), was extinguished by a petty officer, leaving the compartment on the ship’s 02 level in a smoky haze.

The fire was minor in scale compared to the conflagration that consumed much of the 844-foot-long Bonhomme Richard and its 13 decks. But the mattress fire in COVID-restricted berthing aboard Essex revealed some parallels to the larger fire. A military judge on Wednesday ruled that those similarities are worthy of further examination by defense attorneys representing a junior sailor accused of setting a fire that led to the $3 billion loss of the 22-year-old Bonhomme Richard, which the Navy decommissioned in 2021 and sold for scrap.

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