Family members safe in Hawaii after supply ship fire

Protecteur Tigers dropped off by USS Michael Murphy

Seventeen civilians wave goodbye to the crew of guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy after being dropped off at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. The civilians were on HMCS Protecteur’s Tiger Cruise when a fire broke out.

When United States Ship (USS) Michael Murphy arrived in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on March 4, there were 17 passengers onboard who had been through a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

They were all family members of HMCS Protecteur crew members, who had embarked on the ship for the “Tiger Cruise” transit from Pearl Harbor to Esquimalt, B.C. at the end of the ship’s two month Mid-Pacific Oiler deployment.

As Mid-Pacific Oiler, Protecteur provided replenishment and re-fueling for allied ships in the Pacific. Having family members on board for the last part of a sail is a common practice with Royal Canadian Navy ships returning from extended operations, and one that family members appreciate.

They were expecting to enjoy a leisurely journey, getting a glimpse of life at sea in the Royal Canadian Navy. Instead, they got a first-hand view of their loved ones in action, doing what they are trained to do, respond to a serious fire at sea.

At around 10 p.m. on the second day of their journey, the lights suddenly went out, followed by a fire alarm and emergency pipe announcing the fire was in the engine room space. The engine room is the largest compartment inside the ship, and is filled with machinery, fuel lines, and high voltage electric cables.

They were 340 nautical miles from land, and with no other vessels close enough to assist, the crew of Protecteur was on their own. They would have to solve this problem together, and their lives depended on it.

Wade Keller, father of AB Sam Keller, said, “They mustered us with the rest of the crew on the dispersal deck. They separated us and accounted for each of us, as they did for each department of the crew. The fire teams were quickly suited up; you could tell they had practiced this many times, as they all seemed to know their role. There was no panic among the teams as they were dispatched to fight the fire. We were all in awe. I will never forget the sight for the rest of my life.”

Arlene Veenhof, mother of Capt Nick Veenhof, said, “At first I thought it was a drill, but then I quickly realized this was the real thing. Looking back, I probably should have been afraid, but I wasn’t, because the crew seemed so calm and organized.”

Paul Smith, father of LS Matthew Smith, added, “To put it bluntly, the crew of Protecteur saved our lives, and they saved their ship.”

As Protecteur was taken under tow for the return to Pearl Harbor, the family members were airlifted to the Guided Missile Destroyer USS Michael Murphy and quickly delivered to safety at the expansive U. S. Navy Base in Hawaii.

To show their gratitude to the crew of the Murphy, the “Tigers” gathered on the jetty after crossing the brow and gave a big cheer of “Hip, Hip, Horray!” to the ship and crew who brought them safely back to dry land.

-Lt(N) Paul Pendergast, MARPAC Public Affairs

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