Last Elliot Lake mall safety inspection had errors: lawyer
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 6:09AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 15, 2012 11:13PM EDT
The lawyer leading a class action lawsuit for victims of the deadly Elliot Lake, Ont. mall collapse says the building’s last known safety inspection contains many errors and irregularities.
Douglas Elliot said Wednesday that the last inspection of the Algo Centre Mall was conducted in April 2012 – 90 days before the mall’s roof came crashing down, killing two people and injuring 20 others.
According to Elliot, the two engineers who carried out the inspection had been previously reprimanded and one even had his licence suspended.
Elliot also said the inspection report does not bear the required engineering stamp of approval on it.
The lawyer is heading a $30-million lawsuit on behalf of the victims of the deadly mall collapse.
News of the faulty report came on the same day as some Elliot Lake residents shared stories about how their lives have been affected in the aftermath of a deadly mall collapse earlier this summer.
Justice Paul Belanger held an informal meeting Wednesday as he and his team prepare for the January start of their one-year inquiry into what went wrong and how the disaster was handled.
The shopping centre has remained closed since the June 23 disaster.
A disabled senior, who uses a wheelchair, told the commission Wednesday that the Algo Centre Mall was a central hub that was accessible to all members of the community.
Now that the mall is closed, she said, simple tasks such as shopping and running errands are much more difficult, and expensive.
"This is a seniors’ town," the woman said. "We were brought here from other places, thinking and knowing we would be well serviced as seniors. And even to try and get to see you... it was extremely difficult to get a seat on the Wheel Transit."
Another man talked about how the mall was a central meeting place for members of the francophone community, and another shared how he has been unable to check out library books since the closure of the mall, which housed the facility.
Other residents attempted to lay blame, or demanded to know who was responsible, said CTV's Scott Laurie.
"People are extremely angry about the state of the mall," Laurie told CTV News Channel.
"Over the years people have said there were leaks in the mall, that the rooftop parking lot was rusting out in parts and that they always felt there was some danger surrounding it. No one ever raised the alarm and this tragedy is what resulted. They want to know why two people died."
However, they were told by the inquiry that it's too early to lay blame and the first priority is to get a better perspective on the role the mall played in the community, and how its closure is affecting residents.
Members have already spent several days touring the town and visiting the rubble of the collapsed shopping centre.
In his opening remarks, Belanger expressed his condolences and said the disaster, which killed two women and injured about 20 others "shook all Ontarians as well as the people of Canada."
Part of the mall's rooftop parking lot collapsed on June 23 into the food court area, triggering a rescue and recovery effort that lasted for days and made headlines across Canada.
Belanger and his team are expected to spend a year looking into the case before releasing a report on whether the tragedy was preventable.
The owner of the Algo Centre Mall, Bob Nazarian, had been expected to speak to the media Wednesday but instead issued a written statement which staunchly defended the mall's safety record.
"Since Eastwood Mall Inc. took ownership of the Algo Mall more than six years ago, they have had in place a regular program of maintenance and inspections, specifically regarding issues concerning the roof," the statement said.
"The Owners of the Algo Mall have in hand historical as well as current engineering reports that clearly indicate that there was never any structural issue concerning the roof at the mall, making the collapse of the roof even more surprising."
New Democrat MPP Michael Mantha, who represents the provincial riding that includes Elliot Lake, said residents want to know more about the inquiry process and whether they should get involved.
He told The Canadian Press he is encouraging residents to share their perspective with the commission.
"Now that they're over the trauma of the tragedy and those raw emotions that were there, people are starting to remember particular situations or incidents," Mantha said.
"People are remembering there was a crack, there was some leaking."
The mall represented a major social and business hub for the community, and so far only a handful of businesses have managed to relocate.
According to some estimates the town lost 60 per cent of its retail space when the mall was shut down.
There are plans to construct a new mall, with hopes it could be ready by the end of next year.
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