Timeline: the Elliot Lake mall collapse

The public inquiry into the deadly collapse at the Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario is set to begin Monday.

Last summer, a section of the mall’s rooftop garage unexpectedly gave in, sending concrete and debris raining down through two stories of the shopping centre.

Lucie Aylwin, 37, and Doloris Perizzolo, 74, both lost their lives as a result of the collapse. Twenty-two others suffered serious and minor injuries. 

Commissioner Paul Belanger is expected to hear the testimony of more than 75 witnesses, as the commission tries to determine why the collapse occurred, and whether the response of emergency services was adequate.

As part of our coverage of the disaster at Elliot Lake, Global News has compiled a timeline of events surrounding the mall construction, maintenance and tragic cave-in.

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1979: The Ontario Municipal Board approves construction of the Algo Centre Mall by Algocen Realty Holdings ltd., the real estate branch of the Algoma Central Railway. The cost is estimated at $10 million.

1980: Construction of Algo Centre Mall complete. First tenants include Woolco, Dominion, and Shoppers Drug Mart.

1996: A city report titled “Downtown, Core, and Industrial Area Improvements” is very critical of the overall design and aesthetic appearance of the Algo Centre Mall. Around this time, the mall begins to suffer from leaking and water problems.

2005: Bob Nazarian of Eastwood Incorporated acquires the Algo Centre Mall for $6.2 million.

2007: The owner of mall food vendor Starlight Cafe sues Eastwood Incorporated, alleging in court documents that leaks above her shop twice caused the roof to collapse, forcing her to close the business. She is ultimately awarded $11,000 in damages.

2008: Leaks continue to plague vendors at Algo Centre Mall. The Bank of Nova Scotia is forced to close its outlet for more than a week to deal with water damage. Whole sections of the Elliot Lake Public Library (located in Algo Centre) are closed to the public due to concerns over mold.

June 2008: Owner Bob Nazarian and Eastwood Incorporated announce plans to repair and renovate the roof of the Algo Centre Mall. Architect John Clinckett is retained to install a protective membrane on the roof to keep water out (which had been part of the original 1979 design for the mall) as well as add a layer of asphalt to maintain rooftop parking.

2008-2009: According to a former manager of Algo Centre Mall, Nazarian balked at the $1 million price tag of repairs and cancelled the contract. Nazarian hires contractors Peak Building Restoration to complete repairs. According to court documents, Peak completes $823, 657 of worth of work on the roof, but are paid only a small fraction of that by Nazarian.

2010: Engineering consulting firm Read Jones Christofferson Ltd. is hired to perform a feasibility study on retrofitting the mall. In court documents, the firm alleges it wasn’t paid $23,825.

2011: A section of concrete crashes through the roof of Algo Centre restaurant Hungry Jack’s. Both mall management and the city are notified, but according to a restaurant employee the city’s inspector never arrives, and nothing is heard from Algo Centre management. The restaurant is adjacent to the location of the 2012 roof collapse.

March 2012: Mall management pleads guilty in court to having sprinklers and fire alarms that failed to code. $50,000 is spent upgrading the fire-prevention systems at the mall.

May 2012: According to Rhonda Bear, manager of Algo Centre Mall, an engineering and structural study is done (a month before the deadly collapse), but fails to turn up anything.

Saturday, June 23rd, 2:19 PM: The roof of the Algo Centre mall collapses. Two cars fall through the 40-by-80-foot gap. The mall is evacuated, and two people are reported missing.

4:00 PM: Mayor Rick Hamilton declares a state of emergency.

8:00 PM: The Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team (HUSAR) is deployed to Elliot Lake to assist in rescue efforts. Included are approximately 40 police, EMS, firefighter, and public safety personnel.

Sunday, June 24th: According to HUSAR team leader Bill Neadles, rescuers report hearing “a couple of taps” inside the rubble that could indicate trapped survivors. Inspector Percy Jollymore says that crews have a visual of a hand and a foot buried in the rubble.

Monday, June 25th, 5:00 PM: Officials hold a press conference announcing that due to the increasing risk of another collapse, rescue efforts inside the Algo Centre Mall are being suspended. This provokes an angry backlash from many in the Elliot Lake community. That evening, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offers to send Canadian military assets to support the rescue effort.

Tuesday, June 26th: With the damaged structure still too dangerous for rescue workers to enter, rescue efforts shift to clearing obstacles. Heavy equipment from Priestly Demolition arrives to assist in the clearing effort. At this point, there are still fluctuating numbers as to how many are presumed dead or missing.

Wednesday, June 27th: Two bodies are located and pulled from the rubble with the help of canine units. They are later identified as Aylwin and Perizzolo.

Friday, June 28th: Premier Dalton McGuinty announces he will launch a public inquiry into the Algo Centre Mall collapse.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012: The Liberal government pledges $2 million to help businesses affected by the collapse recover.

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012: A lawsuit is launched by the families of Alwin and Perizzolo against Eastwood Inc., Elliot Lake city council, and the Ministry of Labour seeking $11.25 million in damages.

January 2013: Demolition of Algo Centre Mall begins.

March 4th, 2013: The public inquiry into the collapse at Algo Centre Mall begins.

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