Former Coast Guardsman returns to lighthouse 54 years after explosion

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Walter Scobie remembers June 18, 1961, when his quiet morning was shattered by an explosion that ripped through Stannard Rock Lighthouse in Michigan.

“My room was on the fourth deck and I was thrown out of my bunk by the explosion,” he said. I didn’t know what happened.”

The explosion took place below the main deck of the lighthouse where the generators and gasoline were stored. The force sent flames shooting up the stairwells, blew a TV and refrigerator out the galley window, and sent pieces of a door into the leg of one of the other men who was situated on the second floor.

Scobie sprung into action not knowing the severity of what had happened, and not realizing what lay ahead. It would be three days before help arrived.

This past June marked 54 years since Scobie last saw Stannard Rock Lighthouse, located about 46 miles north of Marquette, Michigan on Lake Superior. He was stationed there as a 22-year-old, third class engineman, along with three other Coast Guard members.

On the eve of the anniversary of that memorable but tragic event, Scobie returned with family members to the site where the explosion left one of his shipmates dead, and himself and two others injured and stranded for three days.

Scobie’s family members had talked about returning to the lighthouse for years, but this year took on a sense of urgency.

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