Former engineer apologizes to families of Elliot Lake mall collapse victims

The discredited engineer who conducted the structural assessment of the Elliot Lake mall, apologized to the families of the victims of the last year’s collapse.

Global’s Jennifer Tryon, reporting from Elliot Lake, said Wood told the inquiry he couldn’t predict the events, but he hope the inquiry would lead to building owners being required to have a record of their history.

“I feel sorry for the people who were injured and lost their lives, and the effects it’s had on their family,” Wood told Tryon outside the inquiry. “It’s had an affect on my life.

He said he has  permanently retired because of the events.

Earlier in the day he told the judicial inquiry he removed pictures from his structural assessment report at the behest of the mall’s owner.

Wood, who had his license revoked in 2011 and was working as an engineering graduate at the time of his assessment, said Algo Centre Mall owner Bob Nazarian felt images of the tarps hanging from the ceiling, in what was once a Zeller store, had no relevance to the assessment of the shopping centre’s structural integrity.

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He told the inquiry Nazarian said the tarps were a part of a leakage collection system and because the roof was being waterproofed the tarps were just “an eye sore” that would be removed.

Wood admitted he was gullible to believe Nazarian.

“Just because the owner wants you to pull a picture you feel obliged to do that,” Harris-Carr asked.

“These pictures that I took were the worst things I saw. Often clients don’t want to see the worst things especially when they are applying for funds,” Wood told the Harris-Carr.

Nazarian is due to testify next month.

Watch: Extended video of Robert Wood’s testimony on Friday, June 7.

Watch: New details emerge from inquiry. Jennifer Tryon reports.

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Wood denied he told a prospective buyer the roof was in urgent need of repair and would cost $1.5 million to fix.

“Did you tell him that salt leaked down the columns and made them not sound?” inquiry lawyer Bruce Carr-Harris asked.

“Absolutely not.”

“You may have told him that a new roof had to be put on?”

“That portion, yes,” Wood said.

Wood’s report to Nazarian in May 2012 noted concern about the leakage from the parking deck above Zellers and that steel supports in the shopping centre showed surface rusting.

But, Wood reported the supports were otherwise “structurally sound.”

He said he wasn’t concerned about rusted beams, he saw while doing a visual inspection of the mall’s outer walkways, because he was more concerned about the stability of the roof.

Woods’s lawyer said his client had not seen some of the images of crumbling beams, show at the inquiry on Friday. The judge did overruled the objection.

View the images removed from the report below

Images removed from Robert Wood's report on the structural stability of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. (Photo via Jennifer Tryon).
Former engineer Bob Wood seemed unconcerned by pictures of rust shown at the inquiry. (Photo via Jennifer Tryon).
Picture taken after collapse, showing hole in column, Wood doesn't recall seeing during inspection of Elliot Lake mall. (Photo via Jennifer Tryon).
Wood's lawyer objected to his client being asked about photos of rusting beams he says he never saw. (Photo via Jennifer Tryon).
Columns from exterior of #elliotlake mall... with corroded holes were unnoticed by inspector. (Photo via Jennifer Tryon).

“But, you knew in the 2009 report, this isn’t a temporary fix this is a long standing problem they have a whole infrastructure around those leaks,” Carr-Harris said.

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Wood admitted he did not discuss the changes he made to the report with Saunders, but refused to call his behaviour unprofessional.

He admitted changing the final May 3, 2012, inspection report — after he and his partner, Gregory Saunders, had signed off on it.

“How could you do that to your partner?” Carr-Harris asked.

“I apologized to him afterwards and I should not have done it. It was inappropriate.”

Read also: Engineering reports warn of extensive leakage and fire risk at Elliot Lake mall
Read also: Elliot Lake city hall employee calls police on Global News reporter after FOI request

On June 23, 2012, weeks after the inspection report was completed, part of the roof-top garage caved in due to severe rusting of its steel support structure.

Two women died and several others were hurt.

Wood was stripped of his professional engineering licence in November 2011 after admitting to misconduct unrelated to the mall.

On the stand, he said he had pleaded guilty to get the hearing over with, not because he felt he had done anything wrong.

“I was right,” he said.

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“But nobody agreed with you,” Carr-Harris noted.

“That’s correct.”

*With files from Jennifer Tryon in Elliot Lake, Ont.

Live blog replay: Global National’s Senior Investigative Correspondent Jennifer Tryon and Colin Perkel of The Canadian Press provide updates from the inquiry into the Elliot Lake mall collapse.

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