Sombre return to Esquimalt for HMCS Winnipeg

The HMCS Winnipeg ship passing the Fisgard Lighthouse and coming into CFB Esquimalt on Friday, Dec. 18, after 4.5 months at sea. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)The HMCS Winnipeg ship passing the Fisgard Lighthouse and coming into CFB Esquimalt on Friday, Dec. 18, after 4.5 months at sea. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
The HMCS Winnipeg ship passing the Fisgard Lighthouse and coming into CFB Esquimalt on Friday, Dec. 18, after 4.5 months at sea. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)The HMCS Winnipeg ship passing the Fisgard Lighthouse and coming into CFB Esquimalt on Friday, Dec. 18, after 4.5 months at sea. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Federal Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan addresses media at Duntze Head in CFB Esquimalt. Sajjan attended the return of HMCS Winnipeg after 4.5 months at sea on Dec. 18. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)Federal Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan addresses media at Duntze Head in CFB Esquimalt. Sajjan attended the return of HMCS Winnipeg after 4.5 months at sea on Dec. 18. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
The HMCS Winnipeg ship passing the Fisgard Lighthouse and coming into CFB Esquimalt on Friday, Dec. 18, after 4.5 months at sea. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)The HMCS Winnipeg ship passing the Fisgard Lighthouse and coming into CFB Esquimalt on Friday, Dec. 18, after 4.5 months at sea. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Commander Mark Stefanson of the HMCS Winnipeg speaks to media at CFB Esquimalt’s Wardroom on Friday, Dec. 18, regarding the loss of Master Sailor Duane Earle just days before returning home. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)Commander Mark Stefanson of the HMCS Winnipeg speaks to media at CFB Esquimalt’s Wardroom on Friday, Dec. 18, regarding the loss of Master Sailor Duane Earle just days before returning home. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
HMCS Winnipeg’s Ship’s Company gathers in formation during a memorial ceremony for Master Sailor Duane Earle while alongside Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot on Dec. 18, 2020. Master Sailor Earle, a boatswain, went missing on Dec. 14 (Photo: Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair/MARPAC Imaging Services)HMCS Winnipeg’s Ship’s Company gathers in formation during a memorial ceremony for Master Sailor Duane Earle while alongside Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot on Dec. 18, 2020. Master Sailor Earle, a boatswain, went missing on Dec. 14 (Photo: Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair/MARPAC Imaging Services)
Commander Mike Stefanson, Commanding Officer of HMCS Winnipeg, gifts a Canadian flag to Tracy Hull, wife of Master Sailor Duane Earle, during a memorial ceremony while alongside Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot on Dec. 18. Earle went missing on Dec. 14. (Photo by Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair/MARPAC Imaging Services)Commander Mike Stefanson, Commanding Officer of HMCS Winnipeg, gifts a Canadian flag to Tracy Hull, wife of Master Sailor Duane Earle, during a memorial ceremony while alongside Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot on Dec. 18. Earle went missing on Dec. 14. (Photo by Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair/MARPAC Imaging Services)
Master Sailor Amver Cinco salutes the memorial of Master Sailor Duane Earle during HMCS Winnipeg ceremony on Friday, Dec. 14. (Photo by Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair/MARPAC Imaging Services)Master Sailor Amver Cinco salutes the memorial of Master Sailor Duane Earle during HMCS Winnipeg ceremony on Friday, Dec. 14. (Photo by Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair/MARPAC Imaging Services)

It was a sombre return for the crew of HMCS Winnipeg as they arrived back in Esquimalt on Friday afternoon.

The presumed death of missing 47-year-old Master Sailor Duane Earle hung over what was otherwise a successful four-and-a-half-month deployment. And because of COVID-19, there was no gathering, no mix zone where sailors could reunite with loved ones.

“It was never going to be an easy tour,” said Mike Stefanson, commander of the Winnipeg, who took questions but offered little new information into Earle’s disappearance.

Earle is believed to have fallen overboard on the Winnipeg in the early hours of Dec. 14, when the ship was 500 nautical miles west of San Francisco and en route to CFB Esquimalt. Stefanson thanked the search party efforts, which were aided by U.S. services. HMCS Winnipeg has about 230 crew members aboard.

READ ALSO: Search called off for sailor missing from HMCS Winnipeg

“It is rare that I am at a loss for words,” said Earle’s wife, Tracy Hull. “Right now, I can’t think of the [words] that are worthy enough of Duane.

“Duane is the love I never thought I would find after much heartache. He’s my best friend and my adventure buddy, even if he has to be the adventure for both of us.”

Hull and Earle were building their blended family and the couple had big plans to sail the world and travel to Europe.

“He loved me, he loved our children and families, he loved the sea and being a sailor, and he will always be our everything and ‘Squid,’ he is deeply and painfully missed.”

READ MORE: Sailor may have gone overboard from Canadian navy vessel returning to Esquimalt

HMCS Winnipeg left on Aug. 1 and participated in exercises off the coast of Hawaii. It then executed two mission mandates under Operations Projection and Neon in the Asia-Pacific.

An investigation is underway to interview any members of the crew who interacted with Earle in the hours and days leading up to his death and to review surveillance cameras on the ship.

“We want to know just as much as anybody what happened to him,” Stefanson said.

Speculation remains that Earle went overboard on the top deck which is closed after hours but for a small area where crew members can smoke, though no one saw him go over. Crew members keep track of all members going to that area after hours.

Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan was in Victoria and met with the family on Friday to thank them for Earle’s service.

“It’s not just in combat that Canadian Forces members put themselves at risk – it’s at operations like this that HMCS Winnipeg was on, it’s the training that they do, and they do this always,” Sajjan said. “My heartfelt thanks to the family members who lost a loved one.”

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, also spoke upon the return of HMCS Winnipeg.

“What a tragedy it is to lose a shipmate in routine operations at sea; it speaks to the inherent danger … the kind of work that Canadian forces do around the planet and here at home. But it hurts when it happens.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter< and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Canadian Armed ForcesCFB Esquimalt

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eli, left, Brent, Lindsay and Ava Wilson. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wilson)
West Shore families share experience in raising a child with autism

Two families reveal some parallels, but circumstances are different for everyone

Kit Thornton, chief aquarist at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, plays with Wanda, the female Giant Pacific octopus currently residing at the centre. The centre will release Wanda back into the wild next month. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
An octopus named Wanda will soon say goodbye to Sidney

Wanda’s personality is ‘complete opposite’ of previous octopus named after Dr. Bonnie Henry

Hamels Fabrics & Quilting is set to open on April 6 in Sooke. The shop is located at 2044 Otter Point Road. (Mark Martins/Pixabay)
Fabric and quilting store opens doors in Sooke

Shop is filled with all kinds of ‘bright, bold and cheery’ designs

Saanich Fire Department on the scene after a car crashed into the Walmart in Uptown. (Photo courtesy Dan Wood)
PHOTOS: Saanich firefighters free trapped workers at Uptown Walmart

Incident reported as explosion after driver rammed through wall

Tiny packets of carrots ready to be distributed in Victoria. (Submitted/Victoria Seed Share)
Free Victoria seed sharing collective bags work experience funding

Fully volunteer run Victoria Seed Share will get a boost from provincial grant

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of being involved in a stabbing. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to identify stabbing suspect who wielded rusty knife

Stabbing followed argument between two men at Port Place Shopping Centre April 1

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

Immunization plan comes with built-in options for any unused vaccines at the end of the day

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning says the players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are recovering and the team still intends to play a 56-game season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks players ‘mostly on the other side’ of COVID outbreak: general manager

The athletes have had a “whole range” of COVID-19 symptoms, said team physician Dr. Jim Bovard, but no one has needed to be hospitalized

Police are investigating after a man was shot Thursday, April 8 while sitting in a car in Vancouver. (Black Press files)
Man shot in Vancouver while sitting in a parked car: police

The victim is currently in critical condition. Police say no arrests have been made.

Teachers from SD42 and other districts in the Lower Mainland flocked to Surrey on Tuesday in the hopes of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. (Sheelagh Brothers/Twitter)
Don’t line up for vaccines unless asked to come, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

Social media post shows teachers lining up outside of Surrey clinic for leftover doses

Most Read