Painter Recants Sub Arson Admission

TUESDAY, MAY 19, 2015

FORT DIX, NJ—A civilian painter serving 17 years in a federal prison for a $450 million blaze aboard a nuclear submarine now says he did not set that fire.

"I don't believe I'm responsible," Casey James Fury, 27, told in an exclusive interview from the Fort Dix prison.

"I don't believe I did it. I don't remember doing it."

Guilty Plea

Fury, a painter and blaster, pleaded guilty Nov. 8, 2012, to setting the fire that broke out about 5:30 p.m. May 23, 2012, aboard the USS Miami.

The sub was drydocked at the time for painting and other maintenance at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME.

Fury ignited a bag of rags, and the flames spread to the sub's oil-based paint, reports said.

Crews worked through the night to bring the blaze under control. Seven people were injured. The original repair estimate was $450 million, but a $71 million assessment by NAVSEA later tagged the cost at closer to $700 million.

That estimate included repairs required by two other fires: one that broke out under the sub in June 2012 and an abrasive-blasting fire that occurred a few days after Fury was sentenced in March 2013.

Fury pleaded guilty to setting the June fire as well as the big blaze.

After the revised repair estimate was issued, NAVSEA announced that it would scrap the sub, which was to have been deployed five more times over 10 years.

Mental Health and Medications

Fury apologized for the fires at sentencing and initially told authorities that he had been suffering from an anxiety attack related to an ex-girlfriend and wanted to leave work early.

"From the bottom of my heart, I'm truly sorry," he told the court. "I can't put into words the remorse I feel. I had no intention of hurting anyone."

USS Miami
U.S. Navy / Jim Cleveland

After arson damaged the USS Miami nuclear submarine, the Navy announced plans to repair it. Those plans have now been scrapped because of budget cuts and a higher repair estimate.

Now, however, he says that he had not been trying to leave early, noting that he stayed on the sub to help fight the fire until 4 a.m. His attorney said Fury "just freaked out" before setting both fires.

Fury told the news outlet that he had suffered from addiction to prescription drugs, sometimes mixed with alcohol, and from depression and anxiety.

Fury had been taking a variety of medications, including Celexa for anxiety and depression, Klonopin for anxiety, Ambien for sleep, and Zyrtec for allergies, according to the criminal complaint.

Fury was on the job just 11 days before he began receiving employee assistance serivces for anxiety, panic attacks and depression, reported, citing court records.

Pills and 'a Weird Look'

Now Fury says he does not remember what happened and pleaded guilty only to avoid the threat of a life sentence, reported.

He also says that his mental-health and addiction issues were not considered when he entered his guilty plea. He had no criminal record before the fires.

Navy budget cuts
U.S. Navy / Lt. Scott Miller

The USS Miami, shown here in 2007, had 10 remaining years of service life. The Navy says that, due to budget constraints, it "simply cannot afford to undertake the repairs."

At the time of his arrest, Fury said, he had taken 14 Klonopin pills and Ambien the night before, to get to sleep.

The day of his arrest, Fury said, he was brought to the shipyard and "the only thing I remember was at the dry dock seeing someone I worked with giving me a weird look," he told the news outlet.

Nine hours later, he said, "I was handcuffed."

He also said a witness on the sub reported that he had been working with Fury at the time of the fire and that Fury could not have started it.

That statement was never admitted into evidence, he said.

Fury did tell the news outlet that he set the small, second fire.

The case has prompted the development of a new fire prevention manual by the U.S. Navy.


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Accidents; Criminal acts; Economy; Fire; Health & Safety; Laws and litigation; North America; Painters; Shipyards; U.S. Navy

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