Elliot Lake mall owners receiving death threats: Lawyer
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012 8:09AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 28, 2012 3:17PM EDT
The lawyer representing the owners of a mall in Elliot Lake said Thursday his clients have received death threats and are facing a class-action lawsuit related to the deadly collapse on the weekend.
Antoine-Rene Fabris, a lawyer from Elliot Lake, spoke to reporters in the northern Ontario town.
He could provide few details, but said the owner, Bob Nazarian, had "received death threats, I cannot go any further into it."
Fabris also said litigation was almost a certainty, and he had received notice that a class-action lawsuit was underway but it was too early to discuss the details.
Fabris said the Nazarians, who live in Toronto, had planned to speak to the media themselves but had not yet been given access to the mall and therefore there was no reason for them to come to town as of yet.
"The coroner is still conducting their inquiry, as such the owners of the mall are planning to come back as soon as the mall is returned to their possession," Fabris said.
At one point, an Elliot Lake resident interrupted the news conference and lambasted Fabris, angrily saying the mall had been neglected and people in the community expected something terrible to happen.
Fabris shot back that the mall was regularly inspected and his own family was in the mall the day of the collapse -- something he never would have allowed if he believed it was unsafe.
On Wednesday, after rescue crews used heavy machinery to penetrate the mall, searchers removed two bodies from the rubble of the collapsed food court area.
The victims have been identified as Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo.
Aylwin's body was pulled from the scene shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, and Perizzolo's body was recovered a few hours later.
Gary Gendron, who was engaged to Aylwin, also spoke to the media on Thursday. He thanked rescue and emergency service workers for their efforts.
"They tried to save two beautiful women that they had likely never met," Gendron said.
"On behalf of the family of Lucy Aylwin we would like to take this time to thank the many men and women who worked tirelessly to help us through this ordeal. Doloris and Lucie will live on in our hearts and dreams, may they rest in peace."
He added that rescue workers told the family the women "did not suffer. We were told they were at peace."
Earlier Thursday Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the province will release any documents related to safety inspections that involved the Elliot Lake mall.
He also said that some form of financial assistance will be made available for at least 300 people who worked at the Algo Centre Mall, one of the largest employers in the northern Ontario community of about 12,000 people.
“Some folks have lost their jobs here. Hopefully, those will come back, but we’re going to have responsibility to provide them with some income support,” McGuinty said outside the town’s city hall where he met with Elliot Lake Mayor Rick Hamilton Thursday morning.
The mall’s safety record has been called into question as a result of the tragedy, with residents saying leaks in the roof have been a chronic problem over the years.
McGuinty has promised a “thorough” investigation of past Ministry of Labour inspections and related reports concerning the mall’s safety record.
“I think it’s very important that people are provided reassurance in terms of any information that has been made available, what actions were taken with respect to that information,” he said.
The labour ministry is conducting its own investigation, the premier said, as well as the coroner’s office and provincial police.
“Once those preliminary investigations have been conducted, we’ll be in a better position to determine what kind of review we need to put in place,” McGuinty said.
A timeline for a review process is premature this early in the investigation, he said.
McGuinty also went out of his way to clear up misconceptions that the rescue crew quit its effort while there was still a possibility of finding survivors in the rubble.
“There was some unfortunate miscommunication that somehow conveyed that the search and rescue team were putting down tools,” he said.
McGuinty said that wasn’t the case and the rescue effort never shut down, but safety precautions had to be taken to avoid putting team members at risk, based on information provided by structural engineers who said heavier equipment was required.
“Maybe one of the lessons we can draw together from this is that in future we need to make sure that we have heavy equipment standing by just in case the usual process for extracting people who are caught up in rubble doesn’t pay dividends,” he said.
McGuinty, who arrived in the community Wednesday, said he hasn’t spoken with the mall’s owner about the tragedy.