Elliot Lake mall collapse rescue 'confusing'

The public inquiry into last summer's mall roof collapse in Elliot Lake has heard there was confusion at times over who was making decisions during the rescue.

Fire chief says, at one point, he heard the Ministry of Labour wanted to shut the site down over safety concerns

The public inquiry into last summer's mall roof collapse in Elliot Lake has heard there was confusion at times over who was making decisions during the rescue.

A number of local and provincial agencies were involved in the days after the mall roof fell.

Elliot Lake Fire Chief Paul Officer testifies at the Elliot Lake Inquiry. (Elliot Lake Inquiry)

Elliot Lake Fire Chief Paul Officer told the inquiry that, at one point, he was told the Ministry of Labour was shutting down the site for safety reasons. He said the information came by way of an official he was working with from the Ontario Fire Marshall's office.

"Quite frankly, it was entirely confusing because you have an e-mail coming in from the OFM saying that they are shutting down. So, of course, you have to find out what that's all about and pursue it there," Officer said.

Officer added the situation was quickly clarified and emergency officials continued working on plans to get to the two people trapped in the mall.

Ministry of Labour officials are expected to testify next month as the inquiry continues to probe the rescue effort in the days after the Algo Centre mall roof fell.

'Really afraid'

Officer also explained at the public inquiry why he ordered his firefighters out of the collapsed Algo Centre Mall in the hours after the roof collapse in June of last year.

During testimony at the Elliot Lake Inquiry on Wednesday, Paul Officer said his safety officer asked him to come into the mall and see what the crew was dealing with. He said a slab of concrete was resting precariously on the mall's escalator — above where the firefighters were working.

A dangling concrete slab put emergency workers in harm's way, Elliot Lake's fire chief testified at a the public inquiry looking into the fatal roof collapse at the Algo Centre Mall in June 2012. (Elliot Lake Inquiry)

"I was really afraid that was going to cascade down and slide into the vertical material that was hanging off of the escalator," he said.

"And once a chunk of that size got going, if there's legs in the way, it's going to cut them right off. That's when I pulled everybody out of there."

By the time he pulled the firefighters out, Officer said they had found Doloris Perizzolo without vital signs.

Muffled sounds coming from where the other victim was found — Lucie Aylwin — had also not been heard for about an hour.

"Basically, the conversation was we have done everything that we possibly can in here and the only thing we are doing from this point forward is risking people's lives," he said.

The public inquiry was established in July 2012 by the Ontario government and has been underway in the community since March.

It was created to report on events surrounding the mall roof’s collapse on June 23, 2012, the deaths of Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.

The public inquiry is expected to last until late October.

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