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The public inquiry examining the mall roof collapse in Elliot Lake has heard more about the controversial decision to halt the rescue about 48 hours after the tragedy.

The inquiry has heard the rescue was called off based on the assessment of engineers who detected movement in the unstable building and were concerned about an overloaded beam in the area of the collapse.


OPP Sergeant Jamie Gillespie told the inquiry it was an emotional blow for rescuers when the search was called off over concerns the building was unstable. After public and political pressure it was restarted. (Elliot Lake Inquiry)

On Tuesday, Sergeant Jamie Gillespie of the OPP's urban search and rescue team, told the inquiry he trusted the assessment.

But then he said he was asked to send his officers back into the mall to check one more time for signs of life.

Gillespie said he felt that would have been futile because he was told the rescue would not continue — no matter what was found.

"For me, the risk to my personnel going on to the pile [of debris] and identifying signs of life they could not act on, [was] not acceptable," he said.

"If we were not going to be able to continue, and the building was in that bad of state, I could not allow my people to go in there until we came up with an alternative plan."

'We wanted her out'

Gillespie told the inquiry he believed they were just hours from reaching an area where signs of life had been detected, and having to stop the rescue was an emotional blow for his team.

"We wanted her out and to not be able to complete that task was very difficult, especially at that stage of the game, emotionally, when you are so fired [up] to ... get that person out of there ... and it turned upside down at the last minute," Gillespie said.

Following a heated community meeting where news the rescue was being stopped was shared with the public, then-Premier Dalton McGuinty asked the rescue team to try again to reach the two victims of the mall collapse.

A crane was then brought in to demolish the front of the building, allowing emergency responders to recover the bodies of Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo.

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 Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.

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