By Ryan Melanson
It was a morning of somber remembrance on October 23, 2020, at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, as survivors and members of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Kootenay’s family gathered, as they do every year, to commemorate the accident at sea that changed their lives forever 51 years ago.
The fire and subsequent explosion aboard Kootenay killed nine members of the crew, injured more than 50 others and left each sailor on board with difficult memories that remain today. Many still struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental and physical health issues, stemming from the incident.
The fire began when a bearing in the ship’s starboard gearbox failed during full power trials off the coast of England on October 23, 1969, causing an explosion that ripped through the engine room and sent a ball of fire through the ship’s passageways. The crew fought for hours to save their ship, acting bravely under great pressure and while full of worry for their safety.
“Here on the shores of Halifax Harbour, Kootenay’s home port for many years, we commemorate those Kootenays who died tragically in service to their country. We commemorate their shipmates who still hurt and grieve, and we commemorate the families of the fallen and the survivors,” said retired Captain (Navy) John Pickford, who delivered the eulogy for the day.
He wasn’t a member of the 1969 Kootenay crew, but his father was the ship’s first Commanding Officer in 1959, and he…