Sky Mass of Flames Hundreds Hung on Ropes Says First Eye Witness
by James Hunt
Never have I seen anything break so fast as the fire that swept the Noronic. I drove past shortly after 2 a.m., and there was no sign of life or of anything amiss aboard the big cruise ship. I parked my car and went into a restaurant to wait for the water taxi to take me to my home on Toronto Island, and when I came out the sky was a mass of flames.
I ran to the scene. Neither firemen nor police had yet arrived. The top deck of the ship was enveloped in flames. The scene was one of bedlam. People were running about sobbing and shouting "Where’s my husband?" one woman was shouting hysterically while police tried to restrain her as she fought to get back on board the ship.
Literally hundreds seemed to be clambering on ropes from the blazing ship. The flames were spreading more rapidly now, but figures that appeared to be men still could be seen on the decks. Some dived over the side into the water and swam to safety.
Minutes later they started to bring out the injured. Some appeared to be very badly burned and were writhing in pain as they were put in ambulances and rushed to hospital.
Couldn’t Realize it
Others huddled in blankets in the Canada Steamship Lines offices and were given emergency first-aid treatment until there was room for them in the ambulances. Most of them seemed shock as though they didn’t realize what had happened. There was the old man with his arm tightly around his wife, who was quietly sobbing. Other, though not burned, were running wildly around looking for relatives and friends.
A good half hour after I arrived, two men could be seen at the bow of the ship. They appeared to be surrounded by flames. Then the firemen put up their ladder and showing incredible courage, clambered up to reach them. The men were helped to safety , though one of them, Captain William Taylor, fell into the bay when the ladder broke. He was rescued by firemen and taken to the enclosure.
By this time the ship was a mass of flames. Certainly on one could remain alive who was still aboard the inferno. You could feel the heat when you got close to the ship and the scores of fire hoses that were pouring water on it seemed to have no effect.
Like Losing old Friend
I knew the Noronic well, and it seemed like losing an old friend to see her go up in flames. The Noronic docked in Sarnia every Saturday on her way to the head of the lakes, and for the kids it was a big day. We often dove for money tossed by her passengers into the water. I made my first cruise up the lakes on her when I was six. And I’ll never forget it. The captain allowed me to take the wheel of the big ship as we sped through Lake Huron. Later, I worked as a bell hop on the Noronic.