NEWS

Elliot Lake mall owners downplayed leaking roof

07/16/2013 09:50 EDT | Updated 09/15/2013 05:12 EDT
The public inquiry in Elliot Lake is learning more about why the owners of the Algo Centre mall wanted an engineer to soften his report after inspecting the building, just weeks before last summer's fatal roof collapse.

The inquiry will hear again Tuesday from Levon Nazarian, son of mall owner Bob Nazarian.

On Monday, Nazarian admitted he put in the request to have an engineering report on the troubled mall altered. That inspection was done by engineer Robert Wood just weeks before the roof collapsed.

Nazarian explained why he and his father wanted photos of a rusty beam and tarps collecting rain water inside the mall removed — he said he needed the report to paint a rosier picture for a refinancing application for the mall.

"To a layman, it might not look like surface rusting," he told the inquiry. "As well as just for the purpose of a better presentation, I posed the question of why it was necessary."

Nazarian said he just asked the question, and it was up to Wood to say if the changes were important.

He said Wood's report didn't flag a structural problem, so he didn't think the photos mattered.

"That was my guess," he said.

Would have repaired

"Your guess," commission counsel Peter Doody asked. "Why did you make that guess?"

"Because it doesn't relate to structure," Nazarian said.

Wood is facing separate charges under health and safety legislation in connection with the mall collapse.

Nazarian told the inquiry money that from refinancing would have gone to repairs at the mall.

But the roof caved in before that could happen.

The inquiry also heard Monday that the Nazarians were looking to sell the mall in the years just before the roof collapse last summer.

The inquiry heard one deal fell apart because the buyer determined it would cost too much to fix the leaky roof.

'Perfect'

Nazarian admitted to Doody that he passed along a false claim about the status of roof repairs to another potential buyer.

In documents that were part of the deal, the status of roof repairs at the mall were listed as "perfect."

"Whatever we were doing, I believed we were doing right because the leaks were being minimized," Nazarian said.

"You knew they were not perfect, correct?" Doody asked.

"No, we had leaks here and there. So yes, they were not perfect," Nazarian replied.

Doody: "So the answer 'perfect' was false?"

Nazarian: "That's correct."

Hurting father's health

Nazarian said he couldn't recall if he read the documents before he passed them along to the potential purchaser, but admitted it would have been prudent to do so.

Nazarian told the inquiry he wanted to get the mall sold because dealing with all the problems was hurting his father's health.

Bob Nazarian still owned it last summer when the roof fell, killing two people.

The public inquiry was established in July 2012 by the Ontario government and has been underway in Elliot Lake since March.

It was created to report on events surrounding the mall roof's collapse on June 23, 2012, the deaths of Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.

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