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Nine dead in explosion of HMCS Kootenay

media clip
It's one of the worst peacetime disasters in the history of the Canadian Armed Forces. On the morning of Oct. 23, 1969, the destroyer HMCS Kootenay is one of a group of Canadian ships on training exercises in the English Channel. The Kootenay and Saguenay surge ahead to conduct routine full-speed drills. Suddenly and without warning, a blast comes from the engine room and the room becomes engulfed in flames. Crewmembers battle the flames and rescue anyone they can reach, but nine seamen are killed. In this undated silent clip from CBC-TV News, the Kootenay is seen in Navy training exercises. It is the vessel in the fore with the pennant number 258.  The other ship is HMCS Bonaventure.

• The Kootenay disaster was the most deadly accident in the history of the Canadian Navy.
  • At the time of the accident, Canada did not repatriate its military casualties, and four of the victims were buried at sea according to the wishes of their families. Four others were laid to rest at the cemetery near Plymouth, surrounded by 2,400 Canadians who lost their lives in battle, most of them during the two World Wars. The ninth victim died onboard HMCS Bonaventure two days after the explosion. He was returned to Halifax and is buried in a grave overlooking Bedford Basin in Nova Scotia.

• The Kootenay was the fifth destroyer in the Restigouche class and the second vessel to carry the designation HMCS Kootenay. Its namesake was the Kootenay River, which flows through British Columbia, Montana and Idaho, and is a major tributary of the Columbia River.

• Investigations later determined the probable cause of the explosion to be an improper assembly in the gearbox, robbing it of a sufficient supply of cooling oil.

• Due to the efforts of the crew aboard the Kootenay that day, the ship was saved and later repaired. It would have a lengthy career before being decommissioned from active service in November 1995.

• The other ships in the training group on the fateful day were Bonaventure, Terra Nova, Fraser, St-Laurent, Ottawa, Assiniboine, Margaree and Saguenay.

• On Oct. 2, 2009 those who lost their lives in this disaster were remembered by friends, family and survivors, who assembled at a cemetery near Plymouth, England. There had been previous memorials, but this was the first time a ceremony was held at the burial site of four of the victims.

Medium: Television
Duration: 0:55
This clip is silent stock footage.

Last updated: October 24, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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