The Eastcliffe Hall was a cargo ship built in 1954. On July 14, 1970 she hit a shoal between Cornwall and Chrysler. She sank within minutes killing nine of the 21 passengers on board. Though the Seaway was 10 years old, there were still areas around the “drowned islands” between the dams at Cornwall and Iroquois that even seasoned mariners were still getting used to.

The steamer and its load of pig iron was on its way to Michigan. In command of the vessel was Captain Joseph Groulx. With him in the engine room was Chief Willie Demers, who had his wife and six-year-old daughter on board. Capt. Groulx had his 16-year-old son on board as well.

Around 3:00 am, they ran aground on Gooseneck Island shoal, a former “drowned island.” After easing the ship back from the shoal they turned hard to starboard. Though they were free of Gooseneck Island, they were heading for the Chrysler shoal at full speed.

At 4:00 am, campers at the nearby Chrysler Park marina heard what was described as a “sonic boom.” On the water they could see ship lights sitting at an awkward angle. Cries for help were briefly drowned out by the sound of “glass breaking and hissing steam” as the ship plunged toward the bottom of the river.

Within minutes, rescuers had found and collected 11 people drifting downstream in the current. Another survivor was found clinging to the mast protruding from the water.

Six crewman and three passengers died, including Groulx and his son, Demers and his wife and daughter, the fourth engineer, a wheelman, the chief cook, and the second cook.

The cargo was removed by the barge Mapleheath and her protruding masts were cut away. Today she remains on the bottom of the river as a favourite dive site.


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