Elliot Lake victim remembered as survivor who overcame tragedy
Published Wednesday, July 4, 2012 7:11AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 5, 2012 8:16AM EDT
One of two victims in a devastating mall collapse in Elliot Lake, Ont. was remembered Wednesday as a woman who overcame challenges throughout her life and touched all those around her.
Doloris Perizzolo, 74, was killed along with Lucie Aylwin on June 23, when the roof of the mall's food court gave way and plunged two floors down into the building.
More than 320 family members, friends, and members of the Elliot Lake community packed Our Lady of Fatima Parish to honour Perizzolo, a woman who CTV’s Jeff Harrington said was remembered as someone who had overcome tragic circumstances in her life and had the spirit of a survivor.
"When she was born she weighed less than a pound and was able to fight back from that and live a long life. When she was 20 years old her husband died shortly after they gave birth to their daughter. She lived a life of tragedy but she fought back, that was the underlying message," Harrington said.
Perizzolo had grandchildren and had lived in the community for nearly 40 years before her death.
She received a touching tribute from a longtime friend who described her infectious smile and laughter.
Mourners also celebrated Perizzolo's faith, said Our Lady of Fatima Parish Rev. Paul Conway
"They said she was a good lady, a faithful lady who believed in God," Conway told the Canadian Press.
The Elliot Lake Funeral Chapel and Cremation Centre said on its website that Perizzolo was to be buried at the Woodlands Cemetery, a few steps away from the waters of Elliot Lake.
The funeral for Aylwin, who worked part-time at the mall's lottery kiosk, has been set for Monday.
Aylwin’s fiance, Gary Gendron, spoke to reporters Wednesday.
“It’s going to be hard to move on,” Gendron said. “It’s going to take a long time. She’s going to be in my heart for the rest of my life. I was supposed to be with her for the rest of my life.”
CTV's John Vennavally-Rao said the entire community is in mourning.
"It's obviously difficult. This is a town of 11,000 people so when two people die tragically like this it has a deep impact on the community and just about everybody in the community knew at least one of the victims, if not both," he told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.
The funeral comes one day after Ontario Provincial Police announced they had launched a criminal investigation into the collapse of the mall, which is owned by a Toronto-area businessman.
Up until Tuesday, the OPP had been aiding the coroner’s office with its investigation, OPP Sgt. Pierre Chamberland told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.
“As a result of information gleaned from that, it has been decided that it’s prudent to open a criminal investigation at this point,” Chamberland said.
Chamberland would not say which charges the OPP was looking at, only saying that it was early in the investigation and police would consider all parts of the Criminal Code.
“We’ll be looking at all aspects,” said Chamberland. “We’ll be looking at the state of the building in its current state. We’ll be looking at reports and information that we get from the public, in regards to any potential previous state. We’ll be looking at anything that’s been filed in investigations, or any inquiries or any reports that have been completed in regards to that particular building.”
A coroner's investigation is also underway, along with one by the Ministry of Labour.
Previous reports show that the ministry visited the mall six times over the past three years, with the most recent visit in January to respond to a complaint about a leak in the roof parking garage.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has also announced an independent, public inquiry into the incident to find out whether it could have been prevented and how similar tragedies can be avoided in the future.
"We don't specifically know what information led police to launch this criminal investigation, they just said they simply had quote 'obtained information' that prompted them to launch this criminal investigation," said Vennavally-Rao.
The mall, which is a central hub for the northern Ontario town, had faced years of complaints about leaks in the roof and other signs of perceived disrepair, such as rusty beams in the roof that supported a parking lot on top of the building.
One restaurant owner, whose business is located in the mall, said a chunk of concrete fell from the ceiling years ago, just outside his business.
The business owner told CTV that police recently asked to see the chunk of concrete, which he had held onto, as part of their investigation.
Police have set up a tip line, asking anyone with information about the mall to call in as part of the investigation.