Families anxiously await the return of HMCS Protecteur’s crew

No word yet when warship's sailors will return to Esquimalt

Hundreds of families and friends of Royal Canadian Navy personnel in the Capital Region are waiting anxiously for the safe return of their loved ones after HMCS Protecteur caught fire last week off the coast of Hawaii.

Protecteur had been scheduled to dock at CFB Esquimalt today (March 5), but a Feb. 27 engine room fire stranded the ship in the middle of the Pacific ocean, about 600 kilometres from Pearl Harbour.

“There’s no comment on how the crew are getting home yet,” said Saanich resident Devon MacKenzie, whose partner, Leading Seaman Curt Korolyk, helped battle the blaze onboard Protecteur.

“The only contact I’ve had with (Curt) has been about three minutes on a satellite phone so that’s been hard,” MacKenzie said. “I only had time to ask him if he’s OK, that sort of thing. He was fairly shaken.”

There were about 300 people, including 17 family members, onboard the naval supply ship when the fire broke out Thursday. Those family members were evacuated to USS Michael Murphy and returned to Hawaii the following day.

About 20 crew suffered minor injuries including smoke inhalation, exhaustion and dehydration while battling the blaze and were treated onboard.

Protecteur and its 279 crew were being towed back to Pearl Harbour Monday afternoon by the U.S. fleet ocean tug USS Sioux.

Last August, Protecteur suffered cosmetic damage when she collided with HMCS Algonquin during a training exercise en route to Hawaii. Both supply ships are slated for retirement in 2015.

“I’m just super proud of (the crew),” said MacKenzie, a reporter with the  Peninsula News Review. “They really managed to keep it all under control, and obviously the disaster training they had was really worth it.”

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