At least 21 people were injured after a major fire and explosion on board USS Bonhomme Richard, a U.S. Navy warship, docked at U.S. Naval Base San Diego, the home port of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
“Seventeen Sailors and four civilians are being treated for non-life threatening injuries at a local hospital,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement. According to senior U.S. Pacific Fleet officials, the sailors on board the ship had suffered “minor injuries” and were in a stable condition.
As of Sunday night, the San Diego Fire Department was was still battling the fire on board the ship alongside other agencies. The cause of the fire remains unknown.
According to U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, the sailors who were injured suffered primarily from smoke inhalation. The fire on board the ship was thought to have broken out in a lower cargo hold, spreading eventually to the deck, where it became a major conflagration.
The final status of the ship remains unknown as the fire continued to rage Sunday evening. The prospective loss of USS Bonhomme Richard, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, would mark a major blow to the capacity of the U.S. Navy—and specifically the Pacific Fleet.
The Wasp-class of ships, while categorized as landing helicopter docks, or LHDs, by the U.S. Navy, are comparable to aircraft carriers operated by other countries. With a tonnage of 40,500 long tons, the Wasp-class, including Bonhomme Richard, are capable of operating fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, including the F-35B Lightning II and the MV-22B Osprey.
USS Bonhomme Richard was undergoing maintenance when the fire broke out. The vessel has completed several significant deployments to the Indo-Pacific region in recent years, including as the flagship of the U.S. Navy’s Task Force 76.
In 2018, Bonhomme Richard ended a five-year forward deployment to Japan and returned to San Diego. The ship was commissioned in August 1998 and is in active service alongside seven other Wasp-class sister ships.
U.S. Navy vessels have experienced major accidents at sea in recent years. In 2017, USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, collided with the MV ACX Crystal, a container ship, causing the deaths of 7 sailors and extensive damage to the ship’s hull.
That same year, USS John S. McCain collided with the Alnic MC, killing 10 sailors and also causing significant hull damage. Both vessels were repaired and both incidents took place in the Indo-Pacific.