UNDATED (USA TODAY) -- A Portsmouth Naval Shipyard worker has been charged with arson for allegedly starting a $400 million fire aboard a U.S. submarine after suffering an anxiety attack, according to news reports.
Casey James Fury, 24, of Portsmouth, N.H., today was charged with two counts of arson for two fires: the May 23 blaze aboard the USS Miami and a smaller fire June 16 under the sub, which had been in dry dock at the Maine shipyard since March for maintenance and upgrades. The vessel's nuclear power plant was not damaged.
Agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrested him Friday. According to court documents filed today, Fury initially denied involvement in both fires but last week admitted to setting them, the Navy Times reports. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
According to the criminal complaint filed today, Fury, a civilian painter, had been "needle-gunning" -- removing rust, paint and scale -- in the torpedo room May 23 but became anxious after about 90 minutes. Navy investigators say he takes medications for anxiety and depression.
He left with his cigarettes and Bic lighter and went up to a midlevel stateroom, where he found a vacuum and rags on a bunk. "He set the aforementioned rags on fire with a Bic lighter and after seeing flames approximately two inches high on the rags, he departed the state room, went to the torpedo room and returned to needle-gunning," the complaint said.
In early June, the Navy said a preliminary investigation had determined that the fire began in a vacuum cleaner that was "used to clean worksites at end of shift" and that was "stored in an unoccupied space." The Navy said at the time that the specifics of how the vacuum cleaner caught fire would be released in the future.
The fire, which damaged the torpedo room and command area inside the forward compartment, took more than 12 hours to extinguish. The Navy still hasn't decided whether it will repair or scrap the Los Angeles-class attack submarine.
The June 16 fire started on a wooden dry dock cradle supporting the sub. The flames were quickly extinguished and caused no damage.
According to the seven-page affidavit, Fury told NCIS investigators Wednesday that he had been texting his ex-girlfriend, "attempting to convince her to stop seeing another guy," writes the Navy Times, published by Gannett, USA TODAY's parent.
"Fury explained that he became anxious over the text conversation with his ex-girlfriend and wanted to leave work," an investigator said in the affidavit.
On Thursday, he reportedly admitted to starting the May 23 fire.
Fury is being held by the U.S. Marshal Service in Portland, Maine. He was due in federal court for an initial appearance at 3:45 p.m. ET, Seacoastonline.com says.