Elliot Lake anxious for answers in mall roof collapse

The public inquiry into the Elliot Lake mall collapse that killed two women and injured dozens of others last June begins today.

Public inquiry starts today into Ontario disaster that killed two women

The public inquiry into the Elliot Lake mall collapse that killed two women and injured dozens of others last June begins today in the town. 2:39

The public inquiry into the Elliot Lake mall collapse that killed two women and injured dozens of others last June begins today in the town.

Thousands of documents have been submitted, which the commissioner, Paul Bélanger, and his team of lawyers have been combing through for more than six months.

Justice Paul Belanger will lead the public inquiry into the Elliot Lake mall roof collapse. Belanger has presided over several high-profile cases, including one involving former federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski, who was acquitted of criminal fraud charges in 2009. (Ministry of the Attorney General)

The inquiry, established by the province in July, will look into and report on events surrounding the Algo Centre mall's partial roof collapse on June 23, the deaths of Lucie Aylwin, Doloris Perizzolo and the injuries to other individuals, as well as the emergency management and response.

'Establish the truth'

Surrounded by walls of photos in a local art gallery, Elliot Lake resident Paul Kazulak is thumbing through a collection of his own.

"As I came up on to the roof I could see the unmarked OPP, and the taped off area and some people standing around."

Kazulak's camera captured key moments after the roof collapsed.

These pictures, along with more than 300,000 other documents, have been submitted to the commission. The process is expected to continue for months.

"We're trying to establish what happened," said commission spokesman Peter Doody. "We're trying to establish the truth."

'Struggle each day'

And while some Elliot Lake residents say they're anxious to get answers, others, like Gwen Goulet, say they've already found closure.

"To me, it ended when they found and pulled the two bodies out," she said.

One of the women was Lucie Aylwin, the fiancée of Gary Gendron. He said he won't be following the inquiry and is still grieving for Lucie.

"Some days, it seems it's getting easier, but it's not," he said. "It's a struggle each day. It's very hard. I wake up in the morning and I think about Lucie until I go to bed that night."

Many residents of the community felt not enough was done to save the lives of the two victims.

The commission will review relevant legislation, regulations and bylaws, policies and procedures of provincial and municipal governments and other parties concerning the structural integrity of the mall.

From there, the commission will make recommendations to stop another tragedy like this from happening again.

The inquiry will take place at the former White Mountain Academy of the Arts.

This month, the hearing dates will be March 4-8, March 11-14, March 19-22, and March 25-28, with each day starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m.

Commission investigators have interviewed about 250 people and heard applications for standing at the inquiry.

The schedule follows:

March 4

Commissioner's opening remarks; preliminary matters 

March 5

Dale Craig, expert, engineer J.L. Richards, overview of the construction of a building and state of the art in roofing at time of construction

March 6John Kadlec, partner at Beta Engineering, structural engineer during construction of Algo Centre Mall 
March 7

Dave Monroe, former vice president of Harry S. Peterson, Algo Centre Mall roofing system;

Doug Harman, vice president and general manager, Coreslab, supplied concrete slab

March 8Henry Jasskelainen, former supervisor of Harry S. Peterson, installed roofing system and conducted repairs
March 11James Keywan, architect, retained by Algoma Central Properties for the design of the Algo Centre Mall
March 12 & 13 

Barbara Fazekas, former chief librarian, Elliot Lake Public Library;

Rod Caughill, former development supervisor, Algoma Central Properties

March 14Domenic Dell'Aquilla (Trow), engineer, hired by Algoma Central Properties

More information about the inquiry can be found on its official website at www.elliotlakeinquiry.ca, where the hearings are being broadcast live.

CBC News will be covering the inquiry via radio, television and on its website.