ELLIOT LAKE

Relatives of mall collapse victims anxiously wait for trial verdict

The families of the two women who died in a northern Ontario mall collapse sat in the front rows of a Sault Ste. Marie courtroom on Tuesday — leaning in at times to hear closing arguments in the trial of former engineer Robert Wood.

'Every time we go somewhere ... Memories come back,' Rejean Aylwin says

Rejean Aylwin follows his wife and son outside Superior Court in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Tuesday. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

The families of the two women who died in a northern Ontario mall collapse sat in the front rows of a Sault Ste. Marie courtroom on Tuesday — leaning in at times to hear closing arguments in the trial of former engineer Robert Wood.

"We want to see what's going on and what the result is going to be," said Rejean Aylwin, whose daughter Lucie, 37, was killed alongside Doloris Perizzolo, 74, when Elliot Lake's Algo Centre Mall caved in on June 23, 2012.

Aylwin made the three and a half hour drive with his wife and son from Sudbury to witness the final days of the court proceedings in person.

Wood's trial is taking place in Sault Ste. Marie at his request. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

"When it's all finished, we can make a closure," Aylwin said. 

"Every time we go somewhere ... Memories come back."

The family of Perizzolo was also present in Superior Court sitting behind the Alywins. 

'Matters do have a human face'

Wood's lawyer Robert MacRae acknowledged the relatives as he began his closing statements. 

"It was tragedy and there are condolences from both myself and Mr. Wood," MacRae said.

"These matters do have a human face."
Former engineer Robert Wood and his wife leave court after attending the first day of closing submissions in his trial. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

MacRae then reiterated his analogy of there being a tale of two malls. 

One that the Crown's witnesses saw, and documented through photographs of fallen cement and oozing plaster. The other, the mall Wood structurally assessed in 2009 and 2012 that did not display any sign of long-term leakage, according to Wood's testimony. 

MacRae showed the court an image that was taken during the time of Wood's inspections of a bright, clean hallway in the shopping centre. 

'Purposely concealing' evidence from Wood

"It looks like a well maintained mall," MacRae said.

Macrae pointed the finger at mall owner Bob Nazarian for "purposely concealing" evidence from Wood that showed the building had been leaking since the day it was built, and deceiving "almost all who came into contact with him in regards to the Algo Centre Mall."

Nazarian and his son Levon are "strangers to the truth," according to MacRae.

"I submit it shocking how many engineers and architects were in that mall from the time it was built, and how much of that information was not available," MacRae said.

The Nazarians have not been charged, and none of the allegations against them have been proven in court.

MacRae is expected to finish his closing submissions on Wednesday, as the trial for the only person criminally charged in connection to the roof collapse heads into its final hours.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.