Live streaming video by Ustream

The fiancé of a woman killed in the collapse of the Algo Centre Mall testified Thursday he will never understand why rescuers refused community help in searching the rubble for any survivors.

Gary Gendron told the inquiry into last summer's deadly tragedy there was plenty of expertise and equipment in the area.

"There's people here in Elliot Lake that did mining all their life," Gendron said. "Why would you not let them in and help?"

Gendron was engaged to Lucie Aylwin, 37, whose badly mangled body was recovered from the rubble four days after part of the mall's rooftop parking garage crashed down.

Relatives of the other victim, Doloris Perizzolo, 74, along with many in the community believe she was alive for days and could possibly have been saved.

However, rescuers who arrived from Toronto worried the building was too unstable.

"Anybody that did mining, give them five,10 minutes in the building like that and they would assess it and tell you what exactly equipment they need," Gendron said.

"They wouldn't let them in. Why? It's going to haunt me for the rest of my life."

Aylwin, a long-time employment counsellor who worked in the mall's lottery kiosk for one day a month, was a big-hearted and caring person who loved to socialize, the inquiry heard.

Gendron said he was devastated when the rescue effort was called off two days after the collapse.

"We're stopping the search and we're leaving this in the hands of the mall owner," he said he was told. "We're just going to demolish the whole mall and if we find people, we find people."

He said he sought out the media to try to get the message out that something needed to be done.

The futile search did continue, apparently after intervention from former premier Dalton McGuinty, who is due to testify next month.

'Ashamed to be a Canadian'

Like other relatives of the victims, Gendron said he was given little official information or support in the days after the tragedy struck.

On Wednesday, Dolores Perizzolo's son-in-law, Darrin Latulippe, told the commission he's upset with how the rescue efforts unfolded.

"I'm ashamed to be a Canadian. I truly am, to live in this kind of environment," he said.

"In Bangladesh they pull a woman out in 13 days. They never stopped digging with their hands to get them out."

When the search was called off, Perizzolo's daughter, Teresa, was shocked.

"As far as we're concerned, one of them was still alive," she said. "So they wanted to kill them and then take them out."

Commission report due February 2014

The first part of the inquiry — which looked into what led to the collapse — formally ended Tuesday, with the last of about 70 witnesses testifying.

Evidence heard since March was how the mall, badly designed and built, leaked from the start. Successive owners did little to address the problem substantively.

Ultimately, rust due to decades of salt and water penetration weakened a weld, leading a steel support to give way.

Among those expected to testify in the coming months are local and provincial emergency responders as well as government officials, including former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty.

The commission is hoping to issue its final report and recommendations around February of next year.

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

Elliot Lake Inquiry schedule:

Witness Name

Dates  (subject to change)


Introduction of exhibits (photos, audios and videos)

August 7, 2013

Adam Amyotte, Eye witness

August 7, 2013

Jean-Marie Marceau, Eye witness

August 7, 2013

Yves Bérubé, Eye witness

August 7, 2013

Jason Morrissey, Eye witness

August 7, 2013

Darrin Latulippe and Teresa Perizzolo (Perizzolo family), Victim Family

August 7, 2013

Gary Gendron, Victim Family

August 7, 2013

Rejean and Rachelle Aylwin (Aylwin family), Victim Family  *Please note that they will testify in French

August 8, 2013

Dan Hefkey, Ontario's Commissioner of Community Safety, Emergency Management Ontario  ** Government of Ontario Overview Witness (with respect to emergency response) - limited to policies and procedures evidence

August 8, 2013

Dale Burns, OPP photographer

August 9, 2013 

With files from Canadian Press