Joshua Sinclair was enthralled to see a photograph of Robert Walls splashed
across the front page of the Sunday Herald with the headline 'Unsung No More'.
"That's him !" he called out to his wife. He telephoned the daily and told them,
"He saved my family ! I've never forgotten him ! I just want to say 'thank you'
Sinclair, his wife and three children had been awakened by the sound of
people running and screaming outside their cabin door in Regal Star. When
he opened it, a man shoved past him, grabbed their life preservers and
disappeared. "Hold on to one another and stay close together," he ordered his
family, herding them out. Rummaging through nearby cabins, he found four life
jackets and put them on his wife and children. They scrambled aboard a lifeboat
and waited as they saw crewmen struggling to lower it.
The boat lurched
sideways at a sharp angle and the family was left stranded too far out from the
ship to get back on. If they took the plunge five storeys into the black water,
Sinclair, trained for emergencies during his Air Force career, knew they would
drown. Slowly and steadily, he managed to help his children over the rail and
onto the deck, but his wife was too far out. "Somebody help us !" he bellowed
against the roaring wind and raging fire. The face of a young officer appeared
on the deck. Relieved, Sinclair lifted his wife into Walls' arms, then clinging
onto the young man's hands, crawled aboard.
Like a white vision, a ship came
up, lights ablaze. "Jump into the water -- you'll be picked up," the Captain
hollered through a loudhailer. "We'll jump from a lower deck," Sinclair yelled
back. noticing that he did not have a life jacket on, Walls peeled his off and
handed it to Sinclair. "Away you go," he winked, then darted from deck to deck,
dodging the flames, dragging people to the side and helping them to get into the
By then, the burning ship was listing badly. Making his way down the
stern of the promenade blow, Walls found dozens of elderly passengers huddling
against the inferno. Many were too afraid to move. "You must get off. I'll help
you," he urged gently. Making sure that their life jackets were put on properly,
Wall coaxed them up onto the rail. One at a time, he pried each passenger's
fingers from the railing. For those without the strength to go up onto the rail,
Walls lifted them up and dropped them into the water. All were picked up by the
lifeboats of Seacape Voyager.
Satisfied that no one was left behind,
Walls ran to the rail, swung onto a rope and shimmied down into a lifeboat just
as it passed beneath. He had saved over 50 people. For
more than 30 years, this brave man remained their Unsung Hero.