Another hero steps forward
Two men helped woman left behind escape burning Bay Roberts school
Derek Drover of Shearstown certainly remembers the night Ascension Collegiate burned to the ground, but sharing his memories with others doesn’t come easily.
Having suffered a stroke, Derek has difficulty blurting out the words that run through his mind.
“He’s knows what he wants to say, but it’s just getting it out,” explained his wife Donna.
Derek is clearly aware though of what he and another man did Nov. 11, 1974 to help a woman inside the school escape.
The Compass previously told the story of Frazer Smith, a Spaniard’s Bay native who was in the area with his fiancée when the school caught fire. He went inside, located the 14 women who were involved in a sewing course, and helped lead the majority of them out of the burning school just before it was too late.
There was however one person left behind. That woman was the late Maxine Percy, who somehow became separated from the rest of her group.
That’s where Derek and Boyd Snook come into play (The Compass made numerous attempts to locate Snook, who was reportedly from South River, to no avail).
According to Donna, who was with Derek at the time, they were the first people there, with nobody else in sight.
“I’ll never forget it though,” she told The Compass, seated next to Derek on the front deck of their home. “We were coming across the beach. We had this little blue Volkswagen Beetle … Derek went up over the hill and we pulled into the school, right in by the school, and he took off to see if he could get in. I had to take the car and move her back.”
She said the fire appeared to originate from an area in behind the school office.
“It seemed like it escalated and escalated and escalated and escalated, and then it went from room to room and it just blew,” Donna said.
“We got inside,” said Derek. He and Boyd came across Maxine and found a flight of stairs. All three snuck out a window leading to a roof on the end of the school closest to the swimming pool.
“They couldn’t get back just because everything blew,” said Donna, referencing a big explosion that took place shortly after the other women and Frazer Smith made it out.
“We got down (from) the roof with a ladder,” said Derek.
In a note of thanks, Maxine expressed how gratefull she was to have the two men there to help her.
“I wish to express my gratitude and say a very sincere thank you to Mr. Boyd Snook of Clarkes (sic) Beach and Mr. Dereck (sic) Drover of Island Cove for the help that they gave me in escaping the terrible fire at Ascension Collegiate,” she wrote in a note published in The Compass. “I would also like to mention the fact that these two men reentered the burning school to check and made (sic) sure that the other members of my class were not trapped inside.”
right: The note of thanks Maxine Percy published in The Compass.
above: Derek Drover and Donna Drover were there when Ascension Collegiate burned to the ground in 1974. Derek and another man, Boyd Snook, helped a woman escape the fire.