The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Toronto Daily Star (Toronto, ON), Sept. 17,1949.

Full Text
Many Dropped Like Flies From Burning Ship’s Side

Ross Leitch

I saw people dropping off the Noronic like flies early this morning after it caught fire. I operate a water taxi in Toronto harbor, and carry people back and forth from Centre Island. I was just leaving for the Island at about 2 a.m. when I saw the flames on the Noronic.

I immediately headed for the boat, and I think I was the first one there. As soon as the people saw my boat they started to jump from the first deck on to my boat and into the water. Some of them landed on the roof of my cabin and broke through it. They broke my lights, horn and even smashed the seats in my boat after jumping from the deck, which was bout 25 feet from the water line.

I will never forget it. There was blood all over my boat. I kept pulling people from the water and taking them to the life-saving boat which had just come up. I think I carried about 150 people to safety. Sailors on the Noronic were lowering people by ropes. Several times I was afraid my launch would capsize.

Had to Keep Going

It seemed to me they threw everything overboard they could get their hands on. A litter of clothing and suitcases was all over the bottom of my boat. I had to keep going to the dock, even leaving people in the water to get rid of the load so my boat would not tip over.

On the boat with me at the time were George English and Cecil Mackie, and they certainly had their hands full. People in the water were hanging on to the boat, and we had difficulty steering it to deck. It was almost unbelievable and almost like a nightmare to hear those people screaming and the Noronic’s siren wailing at the same time. We did our best, and I hope we didn’t miss any of them in the water.

Rouse Fire Crew

Bill Durnan

I operate a water taxi and saw the flames on the Noronic while at the dock at Centre Island. I roused the fire crew at the Island and directed them to the blaze.

With me were Jacqueline Turner, Joe Cassey, Bob Goodman and Cy Lorking, all of Toronto.

We got over there as fast as we could after we woke up the fire crew on the Island. We saw a woman hanging to a rope about half way between the water and the first deck. We managed to get her aboard and then we started to get the people in the water into our boat. Some were bleeding badly but I think we got about nine safely to shore. We saw Ross Leitch pulling people out of the water when we got there, I think he got most of them.

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Sept. 17,1949.
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Randy Johnson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Toronto Daily Star (Toronto, ON), Sept. 17,1949.