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Navy destroyer catches on fire in repair yard, one sailor treated at hospital

A fire erupted Saturday evening on a Navy warship at BAE Systems' Norfolk Ship Repair facility, sending one sailor to the hospital.

The blaze broke out around 8 p.m. Saturday inside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Oscar Austin, which is undergoing extended maintenance work at the 109-acre facility along the Elizabeth River, according to Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, spokeswoman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

The destroyer’s crew began “aggressive damage control” to battle the fire but one sailor was transported to a local hospital, treated for smoke inhalation and then released, she said.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation and neither the Navy nor BAE has estimated the cost of the fire damage.

Contacted by Navy Times, BAE referred comment to Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

The Oscar Austin returned to its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk on Nov. 17, 2017, following a seven-month deployment to the areas of responsibility for the 5th and 6th Fleets.

Less than two months later, on Jan. 3, BAE Systems announced that it received a $41.6 million Navy contract to modernize the Oscar Austin, with the deal climbing to $117.1 million if all options were exercised.

The depot maintenance period involved dry-docking the 509-foot-long destroyer, upgrading the warship’s Aegis Combat System and conducting other repairs that would affect nearly every space aboard the vessel, BAE said.

Repairs were slated to be finished by February of 2019 and it’s unclear if the fire damage and ongoing probes will trigger delays.

Commissioned on Aug. 19, 2000, the warship pays homage to Marine Pfc. Oscar P. Austin, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his unparalleled courage under fire in 1969 during the Vietnam War.

Austin threw his body on an enemy grenade to shield a wounded Marine, absorbing the blast.

When a North Vietnamese soldier aimed his rifle to shoot the unconscious Marine, Austin turned his body to block the bullet, sacrificing his own life to save that of a fellow Marine, according to his award citation.

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