The death toll from the Noronic disaster was never precisely determined. It ranges anywhere from 118 to 139 deaths. Most died from either suffocation or burns. Some died from being trampled or from leaping off the upper decks onto the pier. Only one person drowned. To the anger of many, all of those killed were passengers.
A Federal inquiry was formed by Canada’s House of Commons to investigate the accident. The fire was determined to have started in the linen closet on C-deck, but the cause was never discovered. It was deemed likely that a cigarette was carelessly dropped by a member of the laundry staff.
The high death toll was blamed largely on the ineptitude and cowardice of the crew. Too few crew members were on duty at the time of the fire, and none attempted to wake the passengers. Also, many crew members fled the ship at the first alarm, and no member of the crew ever called the fire department. Passengers had never been informed of evacuation routes or procedures.
The design and construction of the 36-year-old ship were also found to be at fault. The interiors had been lined with oiled wood instead of fireproof material. Exits were only located on one deck instead of all five. None of the ship’s fire hoses were in working order.
Captain Taylor was hailed as a hero in the weeks after the fire. He was among the last of the crew to leave the Noronic. During the fire, he broke windows, pulling trapped passengers from their rooms. He was even said to have carried an unconscious woman from a smoke-filled passageway and lowered her by rope to rescuers on the pier below. Despite Taylor’s courage, his licence was suspended for a year.
The ship, which settled to the bottom in shallow water, was partially taken apart at the scene. The upper decks were cut away, and the hull was re-floated on November 29, 1949. It was towed to Hamilton, Ontario, where it was scrapped.
Company officials suspected arson. Comparisons were later made to the fire aboard...