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Charges laid over Elliot Lake mall collapse

Editor's Note:  The following article has been corrected since it was first published on April 30 following input from Professional Engineers of Ontario. PEO informs us that the licence of Robert G. Wood to practice...


Editor’s Note:  The following article has been corrected since it was first published on April 30 following input from Professional Engineers of Ontario. PEO informs us that the licence of Robert G. Wood to practice engineering in Ontario was revoked on November 16, 2012. As such, referring to Mr. Wood as an engineer, as was done in the headline, is incorrect as Mr. Wood does not hold a licence to practice engineering in Ontario from PEO.

Engineers heard shocking news last week that a former licensed member of the profession has been charged under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act in connection with the collapse of the Algo Mall in Elliot Lake.

Robert Wood of the now defunct firm M.R. Wright of Sault Ste. Marie is being charged for providing negligent advice and advice and working in a manner that might have endangered a worker.

Wood and a colleague inspected the problem-plagued mall in April 2012 and reported it was structurally sound. Two months later, on June 23, 2012, the structure’s roof collapsed, killing two women who had been in the shopping concourse and were trapped in the rubble. (Several other engineering companies inspected the mall structure at various times over the proceeding years.)

Wood’s lawyer has said Wood will plead not guilty when he appears in court in Elliot Lake on May 15. If convicted, Wood faces a possible fine up to $25,000 and/or up to 12 months in prison.

Meanwhile, Wood is scheduled to appear as a witness at the Elliot Lake Inquiry looking into the mall’s collapse on June 6. The inquiry, being heard by Justice Paul Bélanger, has already heard from a string of architects, engineers, city building inspectors, the roofing supplier and managers of the mall.

Engineers from NORR, which wrote a long forensic report on the state of the mall and their analysis of the cause of the collapse, are scheduled to appear at the inquiry on May 29.

The mall’s owner, Robert Nazarian, is to appear at the inquiry for a week in July 8. He was the last owner to deal with chronic leaks in the roof, which was used as a parking lot. The mall began leaking almost as soon as it was built in 1980. The entire structure, which included a hotel, is being demolished.

The inquiry is costing taxpayers an estimated $15 million.

For more information about the inquiry and to watch live video, click here.