homepage logo

Ceremony set to remember deaths on the USS Nimitz

By CJ HADDAD - | May 26, 2023

This Memorial Day, a special tribute to those that served on the USS Nimitz will take place at a Cape Coral location dedicated to assisting local veterans.

The Brotherhood of Heroes Military Museum & Library on Monday will host an open-to-the-public event honoring those who perished on the ship as well as veterans who were on board the day the vessel saw a flight deck fire that took the lives of 14 sailors and injured 49.

The memorial takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with local dignitaries present and a ship bell to be rung for each of the 14 that perished.

Cape veteran and business owner Chris Cammarota is a major organizer of the event, and was aboard the USS Nimitz the day of incident 42 years ago.

“There will probably be six or seven of us at the ceremony,” Cammarota said.

On May 26, 1981, a Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler crashed on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier named after World War II Pacific fleet commander Chester W. Nimitz. The crash and subsequent explosions and fire either destroyed or damaged 19 other aircrafts. The fire was fed by the steady flow of fuel from the punctured tank of a just-refueled aircraft. When the fire was believed to be out and orders were given to start the cleanup, a “sparrow” missile warhead detonated, killing two and injuring seven while rekindling the fire. It left a 12-inch by 24-inch wide by 3-inch-deep depression in the flight deck. Two other warheads detonated after the first explosion.

Dennis Driscol, one of the many who died that day, was a member of his and others attendees’ division, Cammarota said.

“He was a good friend that died that day,” he said. “And he was 21. He perished on the flight deck.”

Cammarota will read each of the 14 names, while a veteran rings the ship’s bell.

Cammarota said Memorial Day isn’t quite about barbecues and cookouts.

“That’s not what it’s really about. It’s to honor the deaths of people who served this country, and made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “It doesn’t matter (where you served), you served, and you put your life in harm’s way.”

The Oasis High School JROTC Honor Guard will be present.

The museum will be open for tours. Cammarota said he enjoys having the youth come out and learn about the importance of history.

The Brotherhood Heroes Resource Center and Museum is at 4522 Del Prado Blvd.

For more information, visit www.thebrotherhoodofheroes.com.