NEWS

Owner of collapsed Elliot Lake mall pleads case to inquiry

07/24/2013 08:24 EDT | Updated 09/23/2013 05:12 EDT
The owner of the collapsed Algo Centre Mall plans to rebuild on land he owns in Elliot Lake, because he wants to stay in the northern Ontario community dubbed as a retirement mecca, his lawyer says.

Robert Nazarian’s lawyer, Michael Title, said his client is looking for “a positive outcome for the site."

Title admitted it will take some time, as Nazarian is “going to have to do some work in the community to generate good will."

Nazarian continues his testimony at the Elliot Lake Inquiry on Wednesday, as the commission probes for answers to why the Algo Centre Mall’s roof collapsed on June 23, 2012, killing two people and injuring many more.

Elliot Lake resident John Marceau used to sit in the food court at the Algo Centre Mall, but now he spends his time in the hearing room of the public inquiry.

He's one of many in this community eager to hear Nazarian's version of the events and why more wasn't done to prevent the fatal collapse.

Marceau had just put his coffee mug on the table and was ready to sit down when he heard a bang.

"That was it. I passed out,” he said. “I was hit by the debris [from] that beam when it fall down.”

‘Algo Falls’

During testimony on Tuesday, Nazarian told the commission he knew there was potential for structural damage in the mall as early as October 2006.

But Nazarian said he didn't hire an engineer at that point because he couldn't afford it.

"We were using our line of credit in our house and expenses were going sky-high, and we were constantly working on this roof, and we couldn't fix it,” he said.

This public inquiry has already heard how the Algo Centre Mall was poorly designed and built back in the late 1970s.

It's heard about how the roof — where cars parked — leaked so badly the mall was dubbed "Algo Falls" by people in the community.

Evidence has shown that all that water and salt from cars driving across in the winter eventually rotted the steel that held up the building.

The Inquiry’s senior counsel, Peter Doody, will question Nazarian about “what he knew when he bought it, what steps he took to look after it, while he owned it … and why he thinks the mall ended up in the condition it was just before the collapse.”

Not 'enough fingers' to point

The inquiry has heard evidence that Nazarian realized the mall he bought in 2005 was a money pit.

It's heard how plans to fix it always ran up against the cost — and about desperate efforts to sell the mall in the years before the collapse.

Elliot Lake resident Art Hilder will be watching Nazarian's testimony with interest, but he's already come to his own conclusion about how the tragedy happened.

“I don't even have enough fingers or my toes to point fingers,” he said. “There's too many that could have, should have, didn't.”

Robert Nazarian's testimony is expected to take the rest of the week.

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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