More than 30 cremation urns are still trapped inside a funeral home in what is left of Algo Centre Mall, the main shopping venue in Elliot Lake, Ont., that partially collapsed more than two weeks ago.
On June 23 at about 2:20 p.m. ET, the roof of the northern Ontario mall collapsed, killing two women and injuring many more. Due to the risk of further collapse, businesses — including Alternative Funeral Services — have not been able to go inside and retrieve anything.
Dozens of families are now realizing they've also been affected by the disaster, as they are unable to retrieve the remains of their loved ones that are being held at Alternative Funeral Services.
"For every set of ashes that are there, there's a family that loved these people whether it's brothers and sisters, moms and dads and grandparents, they're all going through a heck of a time…," said John Pomerleau, owner of Alternative Funeral Services. "It's bad enough that you lose someone, but not to be able to get somebody…."
The remains, belonging to people who died over the past year, are often kept at the shop until the summer to give families time to decide where to put the ashes.
Pomerleau said he can't contact the families because their records and phone numbers are still in the shop, but he is asking for permission to enter the premises.
"I'll sign anything. I'm not trying to be a hero, I just think it's in a fairly secure area, give me time to get them out and the documents that go with that so that they can be returned to their family," he said.
A $30-million class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of people affected by the mall roof's collapse. Named in the suit, which must be certified to proceed, include:
- Eastwood Mall Corp., owner of the mall, and corporation head Robert Nazarian.
- The Ontario government.
- The City of Elliot Lake.