Catching up with Sioux Lookout’s miracle child, Dan Tower
Tim Brody - Associate Editor
Fifty-one years ago a miracle happened in Sioux Lookout.
A two-and-a-half year old boy fell off the CNR No. 1 Super Continental passenger train, and was later found little worse for the experience with only a few minor cuts and bruises.
Dan Tower, or Danny as he was known back then, understandably has no recollection of his fall from the train, or being found after a 15 hour search.
The incident occurred on September 12, 1966 while he and his brother, one-and-a-half at the time, were travelling with their mother Faye from their old home in Amherst, Nova Scotia, to their new home in Edmonton, Alberta where their father Jim, awaited.
Tower said he’s heard about what happened from family members, and read the 1966 Toronto Star article about the incident.
“It’s just something I know happened to me,” he shared in a phone conversation.
“My dad said he went back to the spot where they found me, and said it was the only spot around for 100 miles that had any standing grass,” he said.
Tower, who lives in Sherwood Park, just outside of Edmonton, Alberta, is a self-employed truck driver.
He is married with a son, a daughter, and a few grandchildren.
Tower has travelled throughout North America and passed by Dinorwic several times.
He said he’s thought about turning off onto Highway 72 and stopping in, but has yet to return to Sioux Lookout.
“I still have my brother and sister in Nova Scotia. I still have family out there so I get back there a couple times a year… I’ve thought about stopping in there, but then I thought, it’s been 50 years. I doubt if there’s anybody around there that would even remember what happened,” he commented.
“The next time I drive through there, I’ll maybe make a point of stopping in,” he said.
John Cole was 18-years-old when he was gathered into a group with his friends to search for Tower.
“Alice Salem was able to gather us all up. The railroad guys, they organized us into groups. There were six or eight of us in a group and they took us down the line and they dropped us off in sections,” he recalled.
Cole recalls walking seven miles at a time searching for Tower.
“We did that three or four abreast. Two up on the tracks, two in the ditch… We zig-zagged around a bit and looked in culverts and brush. It was quite dark by the time we got going. I remember someone supplied us with lots of flashlights. We just walked our section.”
“It felt like we were involved in something really big,” Cole reminisced. “There was so much involvement with the railroad and the police, the hospital people, ambulance people. Everybody was involved.
“When you’re a young kid at night, in the middle of an area like that, you’ve got friends with you, but you’re looking, there is a feeling of you might find something not so nice. You assume he’s not going to be playing in the sand. None of us had any training, first aid,” he said.
“It was pretty exciting too when they found him, to be part of something successful… It was great when you think of it, how the town - everybody got involved. The stores, the groceries, the food, the flashlights, everything,” Cole commented.
“Everybody was amazed, just amazed, that this boy survived. They assume he was leaning out the door between the cars and leaned out too far and got tossed. Track speed was probably forty or fifty miles an hour in those days. Generally it’s rocky. We were all just amazed he was found alive… I think the whole town was euphoric,” Cole recalled.
Cole said in his opinion, and to the best of his recollection, some of the sentiments in the article may not have been entirely accurate.
“I think the comments about the town being divided… was a little exaggerated. I think it was written a little more for Toronto. Some of the attitude the adults were unhappy with the teenagers; adults are always unhappy with teenagers. I don’t think it was an issue different than any other town.”
The town coming together in support of a person or cause, he said, is entirely accurate.
“The town’s always been that way,” Cole concluded.