Above Image: HMCS Winnipeg sails alongside Japanese Ship (JS) Shimakaze in the Asia-Pacific region during Operation NEON, Nov. 17, 2020. Photo: Sailor 1st Class Valerie LeClair, MARPAC Imaging Services
Early this morning, the Canadian Armed Forces reported a member went missing while deployed on Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Winnipeg.
Missing is Master Sailor Duane Earle, a Boatswain from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who went missing in the early hours of Dec. 14, 2020.
According to a press release, the details of how MS Earle went missing are still being determined.
However, it is believed he accidentally fell overboard very early on Dec. 14. At the time, the ship was approximately 500 nautical miles west of San Francisco, California, en route back to Esquimalt after being deployed to the Asia-Pacific region on Operations PROJECTION and NEON.
“Today marks a tragic turn of events after a year that has taken a large toll on many of our Canadian Armed Forces members and families. I am profoundly saddened by this accident and I want to express my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of our missing sailor and I hope we will be able to provide you with some solace during this extremely difficult time,” said Lieutenant General Christopher Coates, Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command in a press statement.
MS Earle was not identified as missing until later in the day, at which point, HMCS Winnipeg turned back along its route and commenced a search, along with its embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter.
The search effort is being co-ordinated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Alameda County, California. It includes the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Coast Guard assets.
“It is with heavy hearts that we have learned of the devastating news that Master Sailor Duane Earle, a Boatswain with HMCS Winnipeg, is missing. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, shipmates and the entire Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Armed Forces,” stated General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff.
MS Earle’s next of kin have been notified, and the CAF is providing his family with the support needed to help them through this difficult time.
HMCS Winnipeg left Esquimalt in August to participate in RIMPAC 2020 and then deployed to the Asia-Pacific region on Operation PROJECTION Asia-Pacific and Operation NEON from September to December.
According to the press release, the deployment is to strengthen further Canada’s relations with partners in the area. While deployed, the crew conducted training, exercises, and engagements with foreign navies and international security partners.
“Our thoughts are with the family, friends and loved ones of our missing shipmate, Master Sailor Duane Earl. With this happening so close to the end of this deployment and with the Holiday Season looming, it’s simply devastating and is felt across our extended naval family,” said Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander, Royal Canadian Navy.
HMCS Winnipeg has a crew of approximately 230.