' We could sense right away that something was wrong, so we knew it wasn't a drill.' - Wade Kehler

A Niverville man got more adventure than he was bargaining for when the Royal Canadian Navy ship he was on suffered an engine fire.

Wade Kehler of Niverville was invited aboard a Royal Canadian Navy ship to watch his son at work. So he jumped at the chance to set sail with the crew.

Kehler's son Sam is a Naval Combat Information Officer on HMCS Protecteur - one of the Royal Canadian Navy's two supply ships.

HMCS Protecteur

Wade Kehler of Niverville was a passenger on the HMCS Protecteur when it became disabled. (Jonathan Wade Kehler)

The ship had been sailing for seven weeks and had been taking part in Naval exercises alongside U.S. ships in the waters off Pearl Harbour.

Kehler and 16 other family members boarded as it was about to embark on a seven day trip back to its home base in Esquimalt, B.C., but then on February 27, disaster struck.

There was an engine fire.

"The alarm went off and somebody said 'this is serious. This is a fire!', recalled Kehler. "We all met in the dispersal area of the ship and immediately we were grouped together. There was a head count done. We could sense right away that something was wrong, so we knew it wasn't a drill." 

"There was no panic in what they did so that kept us calm," he explained. "The fire burned for 48 hours and even after that they monitored it."

HMCS Protecteur

The first ship to arrive on scene was the U.S.S Michael Murphy, a destroyer class ship that attempted to tow the crippled Protecteur back to Pearl Harbour. (Jonathan Wade Kehler)

Though they can't be sure, it is thought that a generator started the fire. "It is a fuel ship," said Kehler. "It is a supply ship that's filled with fuel for other ships so there was danger involved."

The result was that the ship had no power. After 48 hours, the fire was under control. Rescue ships and tugboats came to their aid. The 19 civilian passengers spent three days on the U.S.S. Michael Murphy.

Seven days later HMCS Protecteur arrived back in Pearl Harbour.