$400mln anxiety: Navy worker set nuke sub ablaze to finish work early

The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755) on fire at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. (Reuters/U.S. Navy/Jim Cleveland/Handout)
The $400million in damage caused to the submarine USS Miami was due to a US Navy worker’s wish to leave work early due to anxiety, a probe reveals. The painter started a second blaze a month later, agitated after an ex-girlfriend’s text message.

­Twenty-four-year-old Casey Fury, who was on medication for anxiety and depression, was charged after he "willfully and maliciously set fire to and burned a vessel, namely the USS Miami, together with building materials and supplies located thereon."

The nuclear submarine was berthed at Portsmouth Marina in the state of New Hampshire at the time of the incident on May 16. The massive blaze raised fears of a reactor leak and the potential evacuation of Portsmouth city.

Fury is now behind bars awaiting a hearing on August 1. If convicted he could face a potential life sentence and a fine of $250,000.

He eventually admitted to starting the May fire during a lie detector test, after previously denying the allegations. Fury reportedly told his interrogator, an agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that “his anxiety started getting really bad," so he set fire to some rags in the bunk room with his lighter.

He also admitted to starting a second blaze on a later occasion in June outside the submarine using alcohol wipes. Fury said he had become stressed after a text conversation with his ex-girlfriend about her new boyfriend and wanted to leave work early.

The sub worker said he had not come forward earlier because the medication he was using was affecting his judgment, making everything “blurry” for him.

Fury had been working as a painter and sand-blaster on board the battle-class vessel while it was undergoing a massive overhaul in Portsmouth’s dry docks.

The May fire caused millions of dollars of damage, leaving most of the front of the vessel in ruins and injuring six crew members. The blaze raged for a total of 12 hours before teams of firefighters managed to bring it under control.

The Navy had initially released a statement saying an industrial vacuum cleaner had sucked up a heat source which triggered the blaze on the nuclear submarine.

A criminal probe was launched shortly after the blaze on May 23 by the US Navy.

Repairs are currently underway on the USS Miami and the Navy hopes to return it to active duty in the fleet as soon as possible.