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Navy punishes six sailors for roles in carrier blaze

The May 22 fire caused $70 million in damage and injured 37.

September 09, 2008|By the Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The Navy has punished six sailors for their roles in a fire that caused $70 million in damage to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington, a newspaper reported Monday.

U.S. Pacific Fleet officials say the six were given nonjudicial punishments, meaning no sailor was discharged from the Navy, according to the Navy Times. The Navy did not release the names or ranks of those punished.

The punishments come two months after the Navy relieved the carrier's commanding officer and executive officer of duty over the May 22 fire.

Pacific Fleet public affairs officials did not return repeated phone calls from the Associated Press seeking comment.

Officials told the Navy Times in an e-mail that the sailors were punished for "their involvement in the chain of events leading to the fire."

One sailor was found guilty of willful dereliction of duty, and three were found guilty of disobeying a lawful order for hiding hazardous material, the newspaper reported. Two noncommissioned officers were found guilty of negligent dereliction of duty for failing to properly supervise a work space, it said.

The news comes as the Navy confirmed that the investigation into the fire had been completed and a report was being reviewed by administrators before its release, expected Oct. 1.

The Norfolk, Va.-based carrier was en route from Chile to San Diego when the fire began. Officials have said smoking near improperly stored chemical containers appears to have started the fire that injured 37 sailors. All were returned to duty shortly afterward.

Navy officials say it took about 12 hours to put out the fire because of the location and size. Fire and heat damaged electrical cabling and components running through 80 of the 3,800 compartments across several decks of the carrier.

The crew of the carrier was temporarily assigned to shore duty in San Diego during the nearly three months of repairs needed after the fire.

The carrier is expected to arrive in Japan in late September or early October to replace the Kitty Hawk, which is being decommissioned.

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