USS Michael Murphy returns with civilians after ship fire

A Pearl-Harbor-based U.S. warship that came to the aide of a Royal Canadian Navy ship after a massive fire has returned home.

USS Michael Murphy arrived back at Pearl Harbor Tuesday morning carrying 19 Canadian civilians after a fire broke out in the engine room of the HMCS Protecteur last Friday, about 450 miles northeast of Honolulu. Officials say the engine room was so large, it took several hours to put the fire out.

“When the fire happened, the crew responded magnificently,” said Vancouver resident Sandy Cumming. “There were people running around and putting on fire gear and getting the fire under control as best they could.”

“I was scared,” said Eric Rawlins, a 16-year-old passenger. “I didn’t know what was going to happen and whether we were going to abandon ship at all.”

The ship was stranded until the USS Michael Murphy, which was already at sea, came to the rescue to help transport 17 family members and two civilian contractors to Honolulu.

“We were sitting out in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no power, no lights, no washroom, nothing,” Cumming said. “We were sitting and all of a sudden this magnificent ship shows up on the horizon and everyone’s moral just went (through the roof).”

More than 270 Canadian Navy crew members remain on the Protecteur, which is being towed by the U.S. Navy to Pearl Harbor. They are expected to arrive on Thursday.

According to the Royal Canadian Navy, the ship has limited electrical power and onboard systems are being reactivated in a controlled manner. Once it arrives in Honolulu, crews will conduct an extensive and detailed damage assessment of the ship, investigate the cause of the fire, and prepare the ship for return to Esquimalt, British Columbia.

The HMCS Protecteur was on a Tiger Cruise when the fire broke out, a term used when family and friends join the ship for the last leg home at the end of a deployment.

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