After four days, the fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard has finally been extinguished. Forty sailors and twenty-three civilians were injured in the fire that broke out on 12 July. As the United States Navy launches an investigation into the cause of the blaze, it is unclear whether the amphibious assault ship can survive the damage.
The Bonhomme Richard has a place in the hearts of Filey people, as she is named after the famous USS Bonhomme Richard that fought a battle in Filey Bay in 1779. In America the ‘Battle of Flamborough Head‘ is widely seen as the birth of the US Navy. The 1779 Bonhomme Richard sank in Filey Bay and it is thought that her remains lie in fairly shallow water towards Bempton.
Efforts are being made to reinforce links between Filey and Calvert County, Maryland, in the US. It is hoped that the possible discovery of the wreck of the Bonhomme Richard will bring tourists from the United States to Filey on a regular basis. Although the Corona Virus pandemic has slowed the work, it is still very much high on the agenda of the town and its people. The crew of the USS Bonhomme Richard had been closely following the search for the wreck of their predecessor and there were hopes that one day the current USS Bonhomme Richard might visit Filey Bay. Clearly those plans have suffered a major set back.
The current USS Bonhomme Richard was commissioned in 1998 and is among the few US warships from which an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter can operate from. The F-35s are being jointly built by the US and Britain and these are the planes that are based on the two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. Indeed, HMS Queen Elizabeth was spotted off Filey a couple of weeks ago, undertaking an exercise with her F-35 jets.
Repairs to the USS Bonhomme Richard are likely to be lengthy and would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but a new ship could cost as much as $4bn. Helicopters dropped 1,500 containers of water onto the ship and tugs sprayed the ship’s side to cool it during the blaze. The large quantities of water used in the operation have caused the ship to list.
Thankfully no one died during the fire and of the sixty-three personnel injured, mainly from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, none are thought to be in a life-threatening condition. We can only give thanks for that. Once again, the thoughts and prayers of Filey go out to the crew of the USS Bonhomme Richard and the personnel who fought the fire.