Most of the sailors injured in a massive fire aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard Sunday suffered from smoke inhalation, Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told reporters Sunday (12 July 2020) evening in San Diego, where the ship had been burning for nearly 12 hours, the Navy Times reports.
The sailors were in stable condition, he said.
“Most of them are attributed to smoke inhalation,” Sobeck said. “I don’t have the facts of all of them.”
Seventeen sailors and four civilians were injured in the blaze.
While the precise cause remained unknown, Sobeck said there was “nothing toxic” in the ship, and that the black smoke billowing from the amphib all day was caused by office and berthing items burning.
The fire is believed to have started below those spaces, in the lower cargo hold of the ship, known as the “Deep V,” Sobeck said.
It is a “huge open area where you store a lot of (Marine Corps) equipment and everything else,” he said. “That’s where we believe it was started.
“We cannot make any conclusions, until the investigation is complete.
“What we do know is that brave Sailors from commands all across San Diego worked tirelessly alongside Federal Firefighters to get this fire extinguished and I want to thank them for their efforts. This was a Navy team effort. We had support from the air and sea. Three helicopter squadrons conducted more than 1,500 water bucket drops, fighting the fire and cooling the super structure and flight deck enabling fire crews to get onboard to fight the fire. Tugs also provided firefighting support from the waterline, cooling the ship’s hull.
“We had 63 personnel, 40 U.S. Navy Sailors and 23 civilians, treated for minor injuries including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. We have no personnel hospitalized.
“The Navy continues to work together with regulators, county and state in protecting our environment and preparing to address the community’s concerns as we move forward to the next phase. I’d like to thank our partners from state and county, the U.S. Coast Guard, and all agencies for continued support.”