The Empress of Ireland passenger liner collided with the Norwegian collier Storstad in the St. Lawrence River on a foggy night in May 1914, sinking in 14 minutes and claiming the lives of 1,012 people. This is the story of the survivors and the government inquiry into Canada’s worst maritime disaster. It is based on the actual testimony of witnesses at the Commission of Inquiry, which was presided over by Lord Mersey, the gruff and opinionated British jurist and politician. Lord Mersey had led the investigation into the Titanic and the later Lusitania disasters, but was sorely tested by the Empress Inquiry.
It tells the story of the ruined captain of the passenger liner, the woman who survived the disaster and tried unsuccessfully to claim the body of her disfigured son, the Rimouski fisherman whose job was to search the debris field for the bodies of the victims, the Norwegians who were quickly condemned by the press, the shysters and wagon-chasers who fraudulently claimed insurance policies on next of kin, and the government inquiry which pitted a multinational transport industry giant against a tiny Norwegian coal-hauling firm.