Heavy urban search and rescue commander Bill Neadles shared the decision at an emotional news conference in Elliot Lake on June 25, 2012 — about 48 hours after a section of the Algo Centre Mall roof crashed down on unsuspecting shoppers and employees.
At the time the rescue effort was halted, police said they still had a list with more than a dozen missing people on it. Rescue workers had also reported signs of life in the mall just hours earlier.
In the end, two women were found dead under the debris.
The Elliot Lake inquiry is expected to hear key evidence from Neadles about the decision to halt the rescue, and later resume the search.
Previous evidence shows the rescue effort did resume later in the evening on June 25, 2012, when demolition equipment was ordered.
The move to restart rescue operations followed a call from former Premier Dalton McGuinty, who urged emergency workers to find another way to reach the victims.
When the equipment arrived the next day, it was used to demolish the front of the building so rescue workers could reach the two people trapped in side.
The two women, Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, were found, dead.
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'Catastrophic' failure possible
On Monday, an engineer told the public inquiry how precarious the damaged building was during the rescue effort inside the collapsed Algo Centre Mall.
Engineer James Cranford provided advice for the heavy urban search and rescue team that took charge of the rescue.
Cranford told the inquiry there was plenty of cause for the concern after rescuers noted the building had shifted in the days after the roof collapse.
"The failure mechanism for steel in that situation would be that it would deflect," he said on Monday.
"The deflection you would note would be a warning sign and then, at some point, the steel would fail. Depending on where that failure occurred, it could be catastrophic, but it would be sudden."
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.
Compilation of video evidence from Elliot Lake Inquiry: