U.S. Tows Canadian Navy Ship to Hawaii After Fire

An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter prepares to unload materials aboard Canada's naval vessel HMCS Protecteur.
An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter prepares to unload materials aboard Canada's naval vessel HMCS Protecteur. MC3 Johans Chavarro / U.S. Navy

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A U.S. Navy ocean tug on Tuesday was towing a Canadian navy ship with nearly 300 crew members on board to Hawaii's Pearl Harbor after an engine fire left 20 sailors with minor injuries.

HMCS Protecteur was in the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii when the fire broke out last week, the Canadian navy said. Its passengers included some of the crew's family who had been traveling with the Protecteur on its return leg to Esquimalt, British Columbia. It is common for family to join crew members returning from long missions.

The U.S. Navy dispatched guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy to help the disabled vessel. The Michael Murphy returned to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday carrying 19 of the family members and one Canadian sailor who cut his hand, Canadian navy officials said.

"We signed on for an adventure, and we got one," Arlene Veenhof, a family member, told reporters after stepping off the destroyer. After walking onto the dock, Veenhof and the other passengers gave three cheers to the American crew who had escorted them.

The Canadian navy said a doctor on board treated sailors suffering from dehydration, exhaustion and smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Cmdr. Al Harrigan of Maritime Forces Pacific Headquarters said the Canadian ship was a refueling vessel on its way home from a three- to four-week deployment.

Harrigan said the details of investigating the fire were still being worked out, along with the logistics of getting the ship back to a dock.

"We're going to look after the crew. That's our No. 1 priority. Once the ship is safely alongside then we'll start looking at what the actual damage was," Harrigan said. "We'll bring in our experts, they'll look at the situation, and that'll start the slow process of getting our ship ready to head back to Canada."

Harrigan said the American ship also helped by providing essential supplies, like water, to those on the Canadian vessel.

The 44-year-old Canadian vessel was expected to arrive at Pearl Harbor on Thursday. The effort to tow the aging vessel was complicated by rough seas, which caused the tow line to break Sunday, the Canadian navy said.

The USS Sioux, a deep-water ocean tug, took over towing duties for the slow return to Pearl Harbor, James said.

An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter prepares to unload materials aboard the Royal Canadian Navy auxiliary oil replenishment ship HMCS Protecteur (AOR 509) on March 1, 2014.Mass Communication Specialist Johans Chavarro / U.S. Navy
— The Associated Press