Painter charged with setting $400m fire in submarine at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

CORRECTS STATE TO MAINE INSTEAD OF NEW HAMPSHIRE - Smoke rises from a dry dock as fire crews respond Wednesday, May 23, 2012 to a fire on the USS Miami SSN 755 submarine at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on an island in Kittery, Maine. Four people were injured. (AP Photo/The Herald, Ionna Raptis)
Smoke rose from the dry dock as fire crews responded on May 23.
Ionna Raptis/The Herald/AP

Federal agents have charged a 24-year-old man with setting a fire that caused an estimated $400 million damage in a submarine that was in dry dock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Casey James Fury was charged in a criminal complaint filed in US District Court in Maine. Fury is a civilian who was working aboard the USS Miami as a civilian painter and sandblaster, an agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said in a sworn statement supporting the complaint.

Fury faces two federal charges of arson in a shipyard, one for the May 23 fire and one for a second fire on June 16 in the dry dock cradle that the sub was resting in. That fire was quickly extinguished and caused little or no damage, the statement said.

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Fury initially denied setting the big fire but then confessed, first to the smaller fire then to the big one, the agent said.

Fury admitted to the second fire after a polygraph examination on Friday, saying he left the torpedo room where he was stripping paint when his “anxiety started getting really bad” and set fire to rags he found in a stateroom.

“The reason he set the fire was in order to get out of work,” the agent said in a statement.

Fury told investigators the reason he set the first fire was that he had become anxious over a text conversation with his girlfriend — in which he was trying to convince her that the man she had been seeing was not just a friend as she was claiming — and wanted to leave work.

Fury told investigators he was taking medicine for anxiety and depression, as well as sleeping problems and allergies. The agent also said he had learned that Fury checked himself into an inpatient mental health facility after the second fire, from June 21 to 23.

Fury is slated to make an initial appearance in US District Court at 3:45 p.m. today before US Magistrate Judge John Rich III.