CFB Esquimalt sailors honoured for bravery

May 19, 2012 started off like any other day for Robert DeProy.

A clearance diver with the Royal Canadian Navy based out of CFB Esquimalt, DeProy had planned to go on a dive with friend and fellow sailor Richard Boileau, the coxswain of HMCS Victoria at the time, plus another diver.

The trio gathered up their gear on a sunny morning and took a boat to Shepherd Point in Saanich Inlet, where they planned to go on a roughly 60 to 90-minute dive to check out the sea life.

“It was just a long weekend dive,” said DeProy, a Colwood resident. “It’s a beautiful dive on a wall. There’s large sponge gardens down there and lots of flora and fauna to see.”

But things took a turn for a worse.

Roughly 150 feet below the surface, DeProy noticed Boileau was showing signs of distress and began signalling that he was having difficulty breathing. As Boileau started ascending DeProy sprang into action, testing Boileau’s equipment and giving him emergency oxygen.

At that point, Boileau fell unconscious and DeProy put his life on the line to bring his friend to the surface, despite the inherent dangers of coming up too quickly.

Once on land, DeProy rushed Boileau to hospital, but he didn’t survive.

Boileau’s gear was tested shortly after, but the coroner found nothing wrong. Not knowing why Boileau was in distress before he died was has been the hardest part for DeProy, who went on to complete the dive several weeks later in honour of his friend.

“It was closure to finish the dive that we started to do,” he said. “You think about it a little bit less now [but] I still think about it very often.”

DeProy is one of three members of the Royal Canadian Navy who last week had their names added to the Wall of Valour at CFB Esquimalt, after receiving Medals of Bravery for their heroic efforts in recent years.

Chief Petty Officer Second Class Andre Aubry, also stationed at CFB Esquimalt, was on board HMCS Protecteur when a malfunction caused an explosion and fire in the engine room where he was working on Feb. 27, 2014, roughly 600 kilometres off the coast of Hawaii.

Aubry attempted to contain the fire using a 150-pound extinguisher, and did his best to get the remaining four crew members out of the room. In the years following, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Having his name added to the Wall of Valour has helped he and his family move on, he said.

“There was just one last thing to move towards what I had been waiting for, and it’s just a sense of closure,” said Aubry. “It amazes me to this day that due to the training, the expertise; that nobody died, which is a huge kudo to the versatility and fortitude of the ship’s company, which is incredible.”

Third sailor whose name was placed on the wall, Leading Seaman Evan Beaton, rescued a fellow diver who had become tangled in his lifeline during a deep-sea diving operation in the Bedford Basin near Halifax.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com