Family of crew aboard crippled HMCS Protecteur arrive in Hawaii
Published Tuesday, March 4, 2014 2:55PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 11:01PM EST
The family members of the crew of a Canadian navy ship have arrived in Hawaii, days after the ship suffered significant damage in an engine room fire.
The 17 family members arrived at Pearl Harbor Tuesday on USS Michael Murphy, which was dispatched by the U.S. Navy to help HMCS Protecteur after the fire.
Wade Kehler, whose son Sam is a naval combat information operator on the ship, said when the fire first broke out, he wasn't sure if it was real or it was a drill.
"It was somewhat surreal," Kehler told CTV News shortly after arriving at Pearl Harbor.
"You can tell they’ve been practising the drill for a long time, and we just stood there and watched in amazement," he said. "Watched as our kids and their shipmates went through the task of fighting the fire."
Kehler said a number of the family members who were onboard lost their rooms after the fire and bunked with one another.
"Navy members gave up their bunks for us. It was quite an honour for us," he said, adding that he's happy to be back on stable ground.
Arlene Veenhof said the crew was very calm and in control during the fire.
"I probably should have been scared, but I wasn't," she said.
She added that every member of the crew was involved in fighting the fire in one way or another.
While the family members of HMCS Protecteur are back on solid ground, it will be another couple of days before the 44-year-old Canadian vessel arrives in Hawaii.
The ship is slowly being towed to Pearl Harbor at an estimated speed of 9 km/h and is expected to arrive Thursday.
The ship was returning to its home port of CFB Esquimalt, in British Columbia, when the fire broke last Thursday. The fire left the ship adrift and 20 crew members with minor injuries.
HMCS Protecteur was carrying 279 crew members, 17 family members and two civilian contractors at the time.
It's common practice for family to join crew members returning from long missions.
HMCS Protecteur, one of Canada’s two supply ships, had been at sea for about seven weeks.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. Navy officials said last week that once Protecteur is safely towed to Pearl Harbor, the next step will be to assess damage and prepare for a return back to Esquimat.
With files from CTV's Melanie Nagy