Local sailor shares story on 25th anniversary of USS Bonefish fire


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Posted: Apr 24, 2013 3:05 PM PDT

Updated: Apr 24, 2013 3:27 PM PDT

By Andy Wontor - email


Jim Yates shares his memories from April 24, 1988, the day the  USS Bonefish caught fire.

Jim Yates shares his memories from April 24, 1988, the day the USS Bonefish caught fire.

Twenty five years ago, on April 24th, 1988, the Charleston based USS Bonefish caught fire and burned in the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the sailors on board escaped, but three lost their lives.

More than two dozen years later, the fire is still firmly imprinted into the memories of the survivors. Jim Yates was a Senior Chief Machinist's Mate Submarine Qualified at the time of the fire. Retired and living in Summerville now, he remembers what it was like, "It was so black you couldn't see your hand in front of your face and our shoes were melting to the deck. I made that conclusion in my mind that I was dead."

On the day of the fire, the 30 year old submarine was performing drills with the USS Carr off the coast of Florida. Bonefish was submerged underneath Carr, so even as the fire began it could not rise immediately.

Yates describes the frustration, "We knew we couldn't surface, so that's when I think people were going, ok this is it."

The sailors on board worked together and eventually Bonefish surfaced, but the smoke from the fire was the cause of death for three sailors. "I think that is the part that many people are living through, is that we left three men behind."

Their names and their stories are something Yates can never forget. He lists each man, and remembers their role that day.

"Lieutenant Ray Everts was the officer of the deck. He went up to open the escape hatch and got overcome by smoke and died there."

"Robert Borderlon was the radio man who was sending signals to the ships above us to please clear the way so we could surface. He stayed late in the radio shack and when he came out, he got overcome by smoke trying to get out."

"Marshal Lindgren was part of a casualty control group that was helping those that were injured. He also was overcome by smoke and died."

"The rest of us got out by the grace of God, and the heroics of a lot of people."

Sharing his story today, Yates spoke about the fire not for himself, but to remember those who gave their lives. "Sharing this with you was to point out the three heroes of the day. There was not a lot of fanfare for them, and they deserved it."

**Note: The pictures for this story were found thanks to the Facebook page dedicated to the USS Bonefish.