Elliot Lake reflects on mall collapse, one year later

People in Elliot Lake will gather at the former mall site on Sunday afternoon to mark one year since a section of the roof fell, taking two lives.

Community marks one-year since fatal mall roof collapse

People in Elliot Lake will pause on Sunday afternoon to mark one year since a mall roof collapse took two lives.

A section of the Algo Centre mall gave way on June 23 of last year, killing Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo.  

Sheila Watt-Proulx is on a community committee that has organized a ceremony at the mall site for Sunday.

"It's really meant to be whatever will help individuals," she said. "We are hoping that by offering people an opportunity to gather like they did a year ago, they will get out of that whatever they need."

The site of the former Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake lays barren, one year after the mall's partial roof collapse. The incident claimed the lives of two women and injured many others. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

"It was such a significant event for the community that to do nothing would have been wrong. But we didn't want to over inflate it either."

Moving on

Sunday will be emotional for Luc Morrissette, who owns Alpine Flowers and Gifts. The store was located in the mall for 16 years.

Morrissette was not inside his store when the mall's roof partially collapsed, but when he heard the sirens on June 23 last year he joined the gathering crowd in front of the mall.

He said he was never able to recover any merchandise or paperwork from his store inside the mall.

For five months, Morrissette ran his business out of his home, with help from others.

Luc Morrissette, owner of Alpine Flowers and Gifts, which was once located in the Elliot Lake mall. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

"It was a very hard summer," he said. "The Beer Store would store my flowers [in their fridge]."

Morrissette has now relocated his store to a shopping plaza in another part of town.

He said he's watching testimony closely at the public inquiry investigating the mall roof collapse.

"Some of the stuff that came out of the inquiry is just mind-boggling," he said. "It's like they didn't value our lives, they didn't care."

The inquiry has heard sometimes shocking testimony and evidence, including an engineering report that was altered, owners who never permanently fixed the leaky mall roof, and inaction on the part of city officials.

Mall site empty

The wreckage of the Algo Centre mall has been cleared, leaving behind a dirt lot. Bunches of artificial flowers still serve as a memorial at the entrance to the site.

The flowers sit at the spot where people gathered to support each other and watch rescue efforts.

"It just seems to make sense to gather at that same place," said Christine Hull, another organizer of Sunday's gathering.

Just down the street from where the Algo Centre Mall sat, a new shopping plaza is now under construction. It's expected to open for business in the new year.

In the video below, William Elliott business development agency ELNOS comments on the work to prepare the site. The new plaza will bear little resemblance to the old mall, he said. And in January, a grocery store will be the first retail outlet to open in the mall.