The public inquiry in Elliot Lake is about to hear from Bill Neadles, the search and rescue commander who told the community that the search for survivors was too dangerous to continue in the days after the mall roof collapse.
The news was shared at an emotional news conference in Elliot Lake on June 25, 2012 — about 48 hours after a section of the Algo Centre Mall roof crashed down on unsuspecting shoppers and employees.
- READ: Rescue called off
At the time the rescue effort was halted, police said they still had a list with more than a dozen missing people on it. Rescue workers had also reported signs of life in the mall just hours earlier.
- READ: Community reacts
In the end, two women were found dead under the debris.
The Elliot Lake inquiry is expected to hear key evidence about the decision to halt the rescue when Bill Neadles, the heavy urban search and rescue commander, appears before the commission.
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On Friday, search and rescue site commander Michael McCallion testified at the public inquiry.
"What was the basis that you are aware of that [Neadles] made that decision, that the rescue was over?" commission lawyer Mark Wallace asked.
"Based on what we had told him about the movement of the building, that the engineer said the building was moving towards the pile and was too dangerous for rescuers to be inside," McCallion said.
"So in plain english, the decision that Mr. Neadles came to is that the rescue is over, fair?" Wallace said.
"Yes, fair," McCallion responded.
The inquiry has heard the rescue could not continue because engineers detected movement around the mall escalator, prompting concerns that a concrete slab resting on top could crash down at any time on emergency workers below.
The inquiry has also heard the rescue effort did resume later in the evening on June 25, 2012, when a heavy duty crane was ordered from Toronto.
The move to restart rescue operations followed a call from former Premier Dalton McGuinty, who urged emergency workers to find another way to reach the victims.
When the crane arrived the next day, it did not have the reach to lift the overstressed escalator out of the mall. At that point, it was used to demolish the front of the building so rescue workers could reach the two people trapped in side.
The two women, Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, were found, dead.
A coroner has testified that Perizzolo died instantly in the collapse. He said Aylwin also suffered serious injuries, but it's possible she survived for a period of time.
The public inquiry was established in July 2012 by the Ontario government and has been underway in Elliot Lake since March.
It was created to report on events surrounding the mall roof's collapse on June 23, 2012, the deaths of the two women, the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.
Bill Neadles is scheduled to start his testimony on Tuesday. Former Premier Dalton McGuinty is scheduled to be the final witness in October.