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Jul 24, 2014
Shipyard worker from Portsmouth charged with setting $400 million fire on USS Miami to get out of work
The Los Angeles class attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755), is seen docked at a pier in Florida in this file photo. A Portsmouth man has been charged with setting the fire while it was undergoing an overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
PORTLAND, Maine — A civilian employee of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard set the May 23 fire that caused $400 million in damage to the submarine USS Miami because he wanted to get out of work, according to court documents.
Casey James Fury, 24, of Portsmouth, N.H., started a second fire on June 16 in the dry-dock cradle on which the Miami rests, again because he wanted to leave work, according to documents on file in U.S. District Court.
That fire was quickly extinguished and caused little or no damage.
Fury is under arrest, charged with two counts of “willfully and maliciously” setting fire and burning the USS Miami on May 23, and “willfully and maliciously” setting fire to and burning building materials and supplies located in and around the submarine on June 16. If convicted of either charge, Fury faces life imprisonment, a fine not to exceed $250,000 and restitution.
According to court records, the May 23 fire started in the forward portion of the ship. Fire crews battled the blaze for about 12 hours, finally extinguishing it the morning of May 24.
Fury was a civilian employee working aboard the submarine as a painter and sandblaster.
According to an affidavit by Jeremy Gauthier, special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the May 23 fire was reported about 5:30 p.m. and appeared to have started in a stateroom on the second deck, middle level of the submarine.
On May 24, investigators interviewed Fury about the fire. He said he started work at 3 p.m. that day and was assigned to do needle gunning (paint stripping) in the torpedo room with Michael Huff, a co-worker. He was in the forward end of the torpedo room, while Huff worked at the aft end. Another employee tapped Huff on the shoulder and told him to pull the fire alarm because there was smoke. Huff got Fury's attention and Fury saw smoke billowing into the torpedo room. They both got off the submarine.
On June 18, Fury was interviewed about the second fire. At that time, he was working in the area of the Maine Ballast Tank (MBT) at the forward end of the submarine, which is within the base (cradle) of dry dock No. 2. He was working with Christopher Marquis when a fire alarm sounded around 7 p.m. He had to get Marquis out of the MBT since Marquis could not hear the alarm and both left the dry-dock area.
On June 25, Fury gave a written sworn statement denying any involvement in either fire.
Interviewed a third time on July 18, Fury admitted he set the June 16 fire but denied any involvement in the previous blaze, according to court records.
He told investigators he was working with Marquis, who was inside the tank, and he was the safety watch. At some point, he began texting his former girlfriend, trying to convince her the guy she was seeing was not just a friend as she claimed. He became anxious over the text conversation and wanted to leave work.
Around 6:30 p.m., he started pacing and walked aft toward a cutout in the hull near the back of the boat.
His mind was racing and he observed a plastic bag containing isopropanol (alcohol) wipes on a keel block in close proximity to the hull cut area of the boat, Gauthier wrote in the affidavit.
Fury took the wipes out of the bag, stuffed them into a corner around fire-resistant wood underneath the hull cut on a structure used to hold the boat up while in dry dock. He put the wipes on the wood, placed a piece of plywood over them and then lit the wipes with a lighter. He then went back to his work.
Shortly after he returned, a fire alarm sounded. He notified Marquis, who got out of the tank, and two left the boat.
On July 19, Fury and Gauthier went back to the scene of that fire to track Fury's movements. He continued to deny any involvement in the blaze.
Fury agreed to submit to a polygraph test. Special Agent TImothy Bailey conducted the lie-detector test and questioned Fury about the May 23 fire. Again, he denied involvement, but Bailey informed him he detected he was being untruthful and Fury admitted he started the fire, according to court documents.
Fury told Bailey he was stripping paint with a needle gun in the forward area of the torpedo room when about 5:30 p.m., his anxiety started getting really bad and, what he could recall, he grabbed his cigarettes and lighter and left the torpedo room, passing Huff. Huff was facing down needle gunning, his back to Fury, and he was wearing ear plugs and ear muffs so Huff would not be able to hear him.
Fury went up the stairway to the middle level and entered one of the state rooms with three bunks inside. On the top bed were bags of equipment and rags and a small red vacuum. He told investigators he lit the rags with a Bic lighter and, when he saw flames about two inches high, left and went back to the torpedo room and resumed needle gunning.
He told Huff about seeing smoke, Huff pulled the fire alarm and both left the submarine.
The reason he set the fire was to get out of work, Gauthier wrote. He told Bailey he didn't admit his involvement previously because he was scared and becasue everything was blurry to him and his memory was impaired due to his anixety and the medications he was taking at the time. He said he was taking Celexa for anxiety and depression, Klonopin for anxiety, Ambien for sleep and Zyrtec for allergies.
On June 21, Fury checked himself into an in-patient mental health facilty and checked out two days later, according to court documents.
Fury accompanied investigators in a walk-through of the USS Pasadena, an attack submarine similar to the Miami, on July 20. In that walk-through, Fury showed them the path he took at the time he set the May 23 fire and also demonstrated how he started it. The agents and Fury did a similar walk-thorugh of the Miami and again Fury descirbed his action on May 23, although due to the destruction of the vessel the description was quite general, Gauthier wrote.
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