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Navy punishes 6 for aircraft carrier fire

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Navy has punished six more sailors after an onboard fire caused $70 million in damage to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, a newspaper reported Monday.

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

The Navy earlier had relieved of duty the carrier's commanding officer and executive officer. An investigation into the May 22 fire has been completed, and the report is expected to be released Oct. 1.

Pacific Fleet public affairs officials did not return repeated phone calls by The Associated Press seeking comment Monday.

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 others 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 workspace, it said.

Smoking caused fire
Navy officials have said smoking, likely a lit cigarette, near improperly stored chemical containers appears to have started the fire. Extinguishing it took about 12 hours because of its location and size.

The fire injured 37 sailors and damaged electrical cabling and components running through 80 of the 3,800 compartments across several decks of the carrier. The injured soldiers all returned to duty shortly afterward.

The Norfolk, Va.-based carrier was en route from Chile to San Diego at the time. The crew was temporarily assigned to shore duty in San Diego during the nearly three months of repairs that were needed.

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

The USS George Washington, the fourth Navy ship to bear the name, was commissioned July 4, 1992. It is a Nimitz class nuclear-powered supercarrier with a crew of 3,000 but can carry up to 5,000.