Elliot Lake Inquiry testimony details observers' frustrations

Keeping count of missing people was a dizzying task for the man responsible for maintaining the list of people believed to be trapped inside the Algo Centre Mall after its roof collapsed last year.

OPP inspector Percy Jollymore, MPP Mike Mantha, OMR director Alex Gryska testify at mall collapse inquiry

During testimony at the Elliot Lake Inquiry on Monday, witnesses spoke of their frustrations with the rescue operation. The mall's roof collapsed in June of 2012, killing two people and injuring dozens more. (Supplied/Elliot Lake Inquiry)

Keeping count of missing people was a dizzying task for the man responsible for maintaining the list of people believed to be trapped inside the Algo Centre Mall after its roof collapsed last year.

OPP Inspector Percy Jollymore was esponsible for maintaining the list of people believed to be trapped in the Algo Centre Mall, after its collapse in June of 2012. (Elliot Lake Inquiry)

During his testimony at the Elliot Lake Inquiry on Monday, OPP inspector Percy Jollymore said it was hard to keep an accurate count, since many people called in to report their loved ones as missing.

"There [were] a lot of people calling in who were identifying people who weren't at the mall,” he said. “The list would change, it would fluctuate, it would go up and down. It would get down to — I think the lowest it got down to — was three, and it'd be up as high as … over 100."

In the end, two people were found dead in the rubble.

Local MPP Mike Mantha spoke of deep frustration during testimony on Monday.

Mantha recalled his anger after emergency crews announced they would be halting their rescue effort after two days.

“We wanted to see the rescue efforts resume,” he said. “I said, ‘you guys have to get back in there. There's no way I'm going to let you guys leave this town. I'm going to chain myself in front of your bus’.”

The inquiry also heard people were frustrated Ontario Mine Rescue wasn’t called to help find the people trapped under the rubble.

Ontario Mine Rescue director Alex Gryska testified at the public inquiry that his organization could have offered expertise after the Elliot Lake mall's collapse. (Elliot Lake Inquiry)

OMR director Alex Gryska testified his organization could have offered expertise after the collapse, even though he said it would have been unwise to send rescuers into the unstable structure.

"Some of the information that was being cascaded down to myself [suggested] we could do a much better job than the other rescuers,” he said.

“I couldn't say 'yes we can.' I would be lying if I said that."

The Elliot Lake Inquiry has been underway since March, and is expected to wrap up on Oct. 9, with testimony from former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

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