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.

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