A civilian maintenance worker who has been charged with setting fire to a nuclear-powered submarine was suffering from anxiety and wanted to leave work early, according to a US Navy investigation.

Casey James Fury was taken into custody last Friday and was later charged with arson in connection with the fire on board the USS Miami on May 23 while it was in a dry dock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

It caused an estimated $400m (£258m) in damage to the Los Angeles Class attack submarine, which was undergoing repairs and retrofitting.

Fury is also charged with setting a second, smaller fire on June 16. The painter and sandblaster denied involvement in the first fire until he was given a lie detector test last Friday, according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

When he was told some of his statements registered untrue, Fury finally admitted his involvement.

He said he had begun to get anxious at around 5.30pm and left the torpedo room where he was working with his cigarettes and lighter. He saw a bag of rags in the corner of a room in the sub and allegedly set them on fire with alcohol wipes and his lighter.

“The reason he set the fire was in order to get out of work,” NCIS special agent Jeremy Gauthier said.

He added that Fury told investigators he was taking a variety of medications for anxiety, depression, allergies and insomnia at the time of the first incident.

Fury also said he was anxious about a text conversation with his former girlfriend and wanted to leave work when he set the second blaze.

If convicted, the 23-year-old faces up to life in prison.

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