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September 16, 2014 07:15 ET

Last Surviving First Responder to Toronto's Greatest Disaster Marks the 65th Anniversary of the Noronic Fire

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Sept. 16, 2014) -

Editors Note: There is a photo associated with this press release.

This Wednesday (September 17) marks 65 years since the Toronto disaster that still stands on record as the single greatest loss of life in our city's history. At approximately 2:30am, one of the largest and most beautiful of Canadian passenger ships, the Noronic, burst into flames in Toronto Harbour. 119 people were killed.

Ronald Ford Anderson (now 91), a decorated Canadian Paratrooper from World War II turned police constable, and his partner Constable Warren Shaddock (now deceased) were the first to respond to the disaster. Anderson jumped into the oil slicked, frigid waters and began pulling burn victims and bodies to the dock where Shaddock and others administered first aid.

Anderson, the last surviving first responder, is articulate, mentally agile, physically mobile within reason, and available for interview should you wish to go to his home in Mississauga. He does not wish to go to any studio to be interviewed.

Film and image archives exist in a number of newsrooms, some (including some in the public domain) in the Toronto Archives, and others at the NFB: www.images.nfb.ca/images/pages/en/index.html. Anderson has press clippings about the disaster throughout the years and contacts to others with digitized archives.

The disaster gave birth to the use of dental records being used to identify the dead. Medical examiners came in from other parts of Canada and the US to help ID the victims. Some early estimates on the death toll went as high as 138 because:

  1. So many of the bodies were reduced to little more than ash.
  2. It was widely known but not reported at the time that a number of the men were travelling under aliases like "Smith" and were with companions other than their wives, who believed their husbands were on fishing and hunting trips.

The count was determined to be 118 and then revised when another body was found as the ship was being dismantled for scrap.

The Media were at a Press Club Awards Dinner at the Royal York and poured out down to the Harbour to cover the fire. Toronto didn't have enough ambulances so police cars, then taxis, then passing by motorists were flagged down and ordered to transport the injured to the Royal York hotel lobby where they were treated. When they ran out of room, the King Eddy was used. The Horticultural Building at the CNE became a makeshift morgue.

To view the photo associated with this press release, please visit the following link: www.marketwire.com/library/20140915-ronaldanderson800.jpg.

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