Painter Gets 17 Years for Sub Arson

MONDAY, MARCH 18, 2013

A civilian painter has been sentenced to 17 years in prison and $400 million in restitution after setting fire to a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine last May, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday, March 15.

Casey James Fury admitted setting the fire May 23 that injured seven people and caused $450 million in damage to the USS Miami, a nuclear attack submarine drydocked at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME.

Fury, 24, was a civilian painter and abrasive blaster who was using a needle gun to strip paint in the sub's torpedo room on the day of the fire.

It took 12 hours and more than 100 firefighters to battle the inferno; five of the injured were first responders.

Fury later told authorities that he had set the fire because he was suffering an anxiety attack and wanted to leave work.

On Nov. 8, he pleaded guilty to two counts of arson as part of a plea agreement.

'Just Freaked Out'

"From the bottom of my heart, I'm truly sorry," Fury said during his sentencing hearing, reported. "I can't put into words the remorse I feel. I had no intention of hurting anyone."

U.S. District Court Judge George Singal went to the shipyard to view the damage and a working submarine, the news website reported. Singal said he weighed the seriousness of Fury's conduct and his "clear mental health issues" before imposing sentence.

Fury "never intended for anyone to be hurt or for the first fire to result in the amount of damage it did," his attorney, David Beneman, wrote in court documents, according to "On the dates of the two fires, he suffered from anxiety attacks and 'just freaked out.'"

Source: Vacuum Cleaner

At the time of the May 23 fire, the Los Angeles-class sub (SSN 755) had been in the port since March for maintenance and upgrading.

The fire was reported about 5:30 p.m. ET May 23, and crews worked through the night to bring it under control. A cause was not immediately determined, and the shipyard launched a full investigation.

The blaze damaged the forward compartment, which includes crew living, command and control spaces, and the torpedo room. The sub's reactor wasn't operating at the time, and no torpedoes or other weapons were on board.

According to the shipyard's initial findings released June 6, the fire started in a vacuum cleaner that was used to clean worksites at the end of a shift. The vacuum was stored in an unoccupied space.

Navy Investigation

The Navy conducted formal Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) and safety investigations.

Casey James Fury arsonist

Fury said he had been suffering from anxiety and was on medications for anxiety, allergies, insomnia, and depression when he set the fires.

Navy engineers performed a full technical assessment of the damage, including internal and external hull surveys, to develop a detailed cost estimate.

Fury was charged July 23 with two counts of arson: one for the May 23 fire and one for a smaller fire June 16 under the sub. A month earlier, Fury gave a sworn written statement denying involvement in either fire, according to the criminal complaint.

Multiple Medications

During an interview with a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Fury said he set the May fire after "his anxiety started getting really bad." The complaint added, "from what he could recall, he grabbed his cigarettes and lighter and left the torpedo room."

He went into one of the state rooms, where he found a bag of rags that he lit on fire with his lighter. Fury told the Navy that he did not remember seeing the vacuum cleaner. He then returned to needle gunning in the torpedo room until the fire forced everyone to evacuate the sub.

Fury said he had set the fire to get out of work and had been taking a cocktail of prescription medicines, including Celexa for anxiety and depression, Klonopin for anxiety, Ambien for sleep, and Zyrtec for allergies, the complaint stated.

The second fire was started in the dry-dock cradle and was quickly extinguished. The NCIS investigation found that that fire had been started using alcohol wipes.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
U.S. Navy / Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Kiona M. Mckissack

Fury could have faced life in prison plus 25 years for the fires he set on the sub.

Fury had been working in the main ballast tank area during the June 16 fire. According to the NCIS affadavit, Fury "began texting his former girlfriend and attempted to convince her that the guy she started seeing was not just a friend like she had been claiming," and he became anxious over the conversation and wanted to leave work.

He then set alcohol wipes on a piece of wood, covered them with a piece of plywood, and used a lighter to set them on fire.

Plea Agreement

In pleading guilty in November, Fury admitted in open court that he "willfully and maliciously set a fire on the Miami on May 23, 2012, which placed the lives of people on and around the submarine in jeopardy." He also admitted to the June 16 fire, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II.

The first arson charge carried a maximum sentence of life in prison; the second carried a maximum of 25 years. Maximum fines for each count were $250,000 or the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property, whichever is greater.

Under a plea agreement, Fury faced a sentence of 15 to 19 years in prison but could have withdrawn his guilty pleas if a greater penalty was imposed. The parties also calculated the loss amount at between $200 million and $400 million and stated that the stipulated loss amount may not reflect the final cost of repairing the submarine.


Tagged categories: Criminal acts; Economy; Fire; Health & Safety; Laws and litigation; Shipyards; U.S. Navy

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