NEWS

Elliot Lake mall rescuers turned down offers of help

08/08/2013 10:55 EDT | Updated 10/08/2013 05:12 EDT
The public inquiry in Elliot Lake continues to hear emotional testimony from relatives of the deceased.

On Wednesday, family members of Lucie Aylwin and Dolores Perizzolo spoke at the inquiry.

Dolores Perizzolo's son-in-law, Darrin Latulippe, told the commission he's upset with how the rescue efforts unfolded.

"I'm ashamed to be a Canadian. I truly am, to live in this kind of environment,” he said.

“In Bangladesh they pull a woman out in 13 days. They never stopped digging with their hands to get them out."

Help turned down

Lucie Aylwin's fiancé testified Thursday morning.

Gary Gendron said he doesn't understand why rescuers refused help and that many people in the mining industry, which is active in the area, could have helped search the rubble for survivors.

But everyone who wanted to help was turned down, he said.

He also said rescuers coming from Toronto arrived without any equipment.

Gendron added he was given little official information or support in the days after the tragedy.

It took four days for the rescue teams to remove the bodies of the two women from the mall and, at one point, there was talk of calling off the search altogether.

Several family members say they still wonder if more couldn't have been done to save lives — particularly after listening to the stories from people who narrowly escaped death.

When the search was called off, Perizzolo's daughter, Teresa, was shocked.

"As far as we're concerned, one of them was still alive,” she said. “So they wanted to kill them and then take them out."

Gary Gendron also believed his fiancé, Lucie Aylwin, was alive in the rubble.

Commission report due February 2014

The first part of the inquiry — which looked into what led to the collapse — formally ended Tuesday, with the last of about 70 witnesses testifying.

Evidence heard since March was how the mall, badly designed and built, leaked from the start. Successive owners did little to address the problem substantively.

Ultimately, rust due to decades of salt and water penetration weakened a weld, leading a steel support to give way.

Among those expected to testify in the coming months are local and provincial emergency responders as well as government officials, including former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty.

The commission is hoping to issue its final report and recommendations around February of next year.

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

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