July 15th came and went with little new official information regarding the ongoing fire fighting operations aboard USS Bonhomme Richard. Then, it was announced at around 11 pm local time this evening, that the Navy cleared the ship and the pier of all personnel due to a rapid shift in the vessel's stability.
The tweet from Naval Surface Warfare stated the following:
Out of an abundance of caution the pier and ship were cleared of personnel due to an initial shift in the ship’s list. Personnel are now pier side. We will continue to monitor as the ship settles.
Bonhomme Richard had begun listing to starboard on July 13th and that list only increased until being brought under control recently. Now it looks like the ship has listed to port, toward the pier, which triggered the evacuation as the fire approaches the four-day mark. Chris Cavas corroborated the ship's list to port using local harbor cameras:
The good news is that crews were able to return at least alongside the vessel to continue emergency response operations. There have been concerns regarding the amount of water the ship has taken on over the last few days via firefighting efforts on board, from the sea, and from the air. It was reported on the morning of July 15th that Navy MH-60S Seahawks have dropped 1,500 Bambi Buckets of water on the ship in an effort to keep its exterior cool.
The 15th was the first day since the fire broke out in which a press conference wasn't held. Only a couple of tweets from the Navy provided basic updates:
While the fires aboard Bonhomme Richard wore on, the Navy commissioned an all-new amphibious assault ship into service, the America class USS Tripoli (LHA-7). The coincidental timing wasn't lost on anyone. Tripoli is the second America class ship. The third, which will be USS Bougainville (LHA-8), will be in a new subclass of its own, with the inclusion of a floodable well deck in the design. The original America class configuration was heavily focused on aviation operations and lacked the well deck entirely. You can read all about this in this past piece of ours.
Now that the initial public shock of the fire has subsided, calls for answers as to how what may be the total loss of a capital ship while it was pier-side in its homeport could happen are growing. Our contributor Aaron Amick, a Navy veteran with twenty years of experience, discussed exactly this in a recent editorial for The War Zone. It is quite illuminating. You can check it out in full here.
We will continue to update this post as more information comes available on this ongoing crisis.
More photos are emerging of damage done to the ship. While we can not confirm them at this time, this is the best collection of them we have seen:
The Navy has announced that, as of 6:00 AM local time, firefighters are back on the USS Bonhomme Richard continuing their work. There have been no new injuries.
The ship still looks to be listing heavily to port.
We have daytime overhead shots of the ship's port-side list. The good news is there is no sign of smoke!
Letter of appreciation from the Bonhomme Richard's CO:
We have a big update in a new post linked here. All further updates will occur on the new post.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com