USS Bonhomme Richard

Sailor Awarded for Actions in Fire, Talks About Effort to Save USS Bonhomme Richard

Sailor awarded for actions in Bonhomme Richard fire talks about the effort to save the Navy warship

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As the smoke began pouring out of USS Bonhomme Richard on July 12 and the crew got the call of a fire on board, the Navy says the first of the ship's "flying squad" response team arrived and began to fight the fire.

Damage Controlman First Class, Jeffrey Garvin was part of that team, “Once I saw what was happening my training just kicked in.”

The heat was extreme reaching temperatures of 1,000 degrees. Garvin describing the scene on the Navy warship said, “You see things like paint bubbling and stuff like that. It was very intense,” adding he tried not to think about the heat, “You try to put it out of your head.”

Then came the first explosion, Garvin rocked by the blast, says it felt like a bad dream, “I thought about my son and my wife.” he said. The Sailor was rushed to the hospital, evaluated for a concussion, and treated for smoke inhalation.

And when he was released, he told NBC 7 he had to return to fight the fire, “I couldn't leave my shipmates out there, couldn't expect them to do it without me.”

He and 400 sailors from more than a dozen nearby ships along with federal firefighters fought the stubborn fire for four days. The was crew determined to save the Bonhomme Richard.

“It was 100% all hands on deck," Garvin said.

There were no fatalities, but in all 68 military and civilian firefighters would suffer injuries including smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion.

On Wednesday, Garvin was presented with a Nancy Dix Community Achievement Award for his actions by the San Diego Military Advisory Council. 

“Personally, I don't think that I am a hero. The USS Bonhomme Richard crew is the hero, I'm just the face,” he said.

The Navy says they expect to have the investigation into the cause finished by the end of September. But a Defense official tells NBC 7 arson is suspected and a Navy sailor has been identified as a possible suspect.

As for whether USS Bonhomme Richard is salvageable, the Navy says that is yet to be determined.

“I hope that if it doesn't sail again, they put Richard's name on another ship so that she can continue to sail," he said.

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