Navy frigate returns to B.C., ending deployment marred by loss of sailor
VICTORIA -- Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg will return to Esquimalt, B.C. on Friday, ending a nearly five-month deployment that was mired in tragedy with the loss of a sailor this week.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, are expected to attend the ship's arrival, in what will be a muted ceremony compared to holiday homecomings of the past.
The ship left Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt at the end of July, participating in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) off Hawaii before completing two maritime-security missions in the Asia-Pacific region.
On its passage back home Monday, a 47-year-old crewmember was declared missing at sea off the coast of California.
The search for Master Sailor Duane Earle concluded Tuesday evening after Canadian and American military aircraft spent upwards of 30 hours scouring the waters 500 nautical miles off San Francisco.
"We really cannot explain how he came to be in the water," said Commodore Angus Topshee, the commander of Canadian Fleet Pacific, in a news conference at the base on Wednesday. "We will be conducting a board of inquiry to determine how that happened."
Earle, a father of two young boys and a teenage stepdaughter, was remembered by his former shipmates as a leader who “always maintained a positive attitude, even in the toughest conditions.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued condolences to Earle’s family and fellow crewmembers Wednesday.
"For over 30 years, MS Earle selflessly answered the call of duty," Trudeau said in a statement. "His dedication to our country and its values represented the very best of what it means to be Canadian."
Earle was a 30-year veteran with the navy who first joined the reserve in 1990 and spent nearly 2,000 days at sea.
HMCS Winnipeg is expected to arrive in Esquimalt shortly after 3 p.m.