Rescue workers remove their hard hats as firefighters carry a second body out of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on June 27, 2012. When Commissioner Paul Belanger reports this week on the deadly collapse of a mall in northern Ontario, he and his team will have spent months sorting through numerous claims, counterclaims and finger-pointing as to who was to blame for the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Verdict Thursday in Ontario mall collapse case

Verdict Thursday in Ontario mall collapse case

A discredited former engineer who signed off on the health of a northern Ontario mall just weeks before it collapsed in June 2012 finds out Thursday if he bears any criminal responsibility for the two women who died in the rubble.

Robert Wood, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., had pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing death and a third count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

The maximum sentence for criminal negligence causing death is life in prison.

If Superior Court Justice Edward Gareau does pronounce him guilty of the charges, Wood plans to argue in July that the proceedings should be halted because the matter took too long to get to trial, in violation of his charter rights.

Initially, the stay application was to have been heard on Thursday. However, Gareau, who reserved his decision in February, recently contacted the parties involved to say he had reached a verdict and wanted to deliver it as soon as possible, Wood’s lawyer Robert MacRae said in an interview on Wednesday.

“The argument behind the stay is that the time between the laying of the charges and the conclusion of the trial is excessive,” MacRae said from Sault Ste. Marie. “We’re coming up on the fifth anniversary of the collapse.”

On June 23, 2012, part of the rooftop parking garage at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., crashed into the shopping area below. Lucie Aylwin, 37, and Doloris Perizzolo, 74, were killed while Jean-Marie Marceau, 80, was badly hurt.

Police charged Wood criminally in January 2014. The prosecution then pushed to put on hold charges that had been previously laid in April 2013 under provincial worker-safety rules pending disposition of the criminal charges. The general rule is that 30 months is the longest it should take for someone charged to be tried in Superior Court.

The stay application is currently set to be heard July 25, if needed.

Evidence at a lengthy judicial inquiry was that supporting beams at the Elliot Lake mall had rusted through after decades of rain-water penetration. Wood inspected the building in 2009 and again in 2012 in the weeks before the collapse.

In May 2012, Wood told the mall’s owner that steel supports at the shopping centre showed surface rusting, but were otherwise “structurally sound.” He later admitted changing his final inspection report after his partner had signed off on it to delete photographs of a corroded steel beam and yellow tarps strung to collect water leaking into a mall store.

Wood, now in his mid-60s, was stripped of his professional engineering licence in November 2011 after admitting to misconduct unrelated to the mall and is now retired.

He testified both at the inquiry and during his trial that he saw nothing to indicate any imminent danger existed.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Red Deer College waiting for feds to finalize marijuana legalization

Like businesses, Alberta and municipal governments, Red Deer College is waiting for… Continue reading

Class size only part of the problem say Central Alberta teachers

Though the Alberta auditor general’s report points out that classroom sizes continue… Continue reading

Lacombe County promoting crime prevention measures

County pushing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles

Red Deer doctor concerned about patient transfers to rural hospitals

Family physician says the move creates less incentive for expansion at Red Deer hospital

Fire permit season begins in March

Earlier springs in last few years prompted Alberta government to move up fire permit season

WATCH: Red Deer’s River Bend upgrades officially open

River Bend Golf and Recreation Area is the latest venue to be… Continue reading

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Stores make push in scan and go tech, hope shoppers adopt it

NEW YORK — Shoppers at self-checkout lanes scanning all their groceries after… Continue reading

‘Stars seemed to have aligned’ for new Halifax CFL bid, commissioner says

HALIFAX — CFL fans in Halifax have been told the league is… Continue reading

The language of ‘Black Panther’? It’s real. Give it a try.

OTTAWA — The military’s top general has promised to get to the… Continue reading

New execution date set for Georgia’s ‘stocking strangler’

ATLANTA — A man known as the “stocking strangler,” who was convicted… Continue reading

Man says he kicked Chevy Chase in self-defence in dispute

SOUTH NYACK, N.Y. — A New York man says he kicked Chevy… Continue reading

Supporters of Tina Fontaine’s family march in Winnipeg to support her family

WINNIPEG — Hundreds marched through the streets of Winnipeg on Friday in… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month