ELLIOT LAKE

Cross examination enters final stage in Elliot Lake mall collapse trial

Discredited engineer Robert Wood testified on Friday that he did not take a closer look at the beam that later gave way, causing the fatal Elliot Lake mall collapse, when he inspected the building in April 2012.

Robert Wood declared the Algo Centre Mall 'structurally sound' just weeks before roof collapsed

Robert Wood walks to court in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Thursday accompanied by his wife. (Natacha Lavigne/Radio-Canada)

Discredited engineer Robert Wood testified on Friday that he did not take a closer look at the beam that later gave way, causing the fatal Elliot Lake mall collapse, when he inspected the building in April 2012. 

Just weeks after that fateful examination on June 23, a portion of the Algo Centre Mall's rooftop parking deck caved in and killed 37-year-old Lucie Aylwin and 74-year-old Doloris Perizzolo. More than a dozen others were injured. 

Wood, who is the only person criminally charged in connection to the disaster, has been in the witness box since Tuesday to answer questions about his 2009 and 2012 inspections of the shopping centre. 

Wood dedicated a section of his 2009 report on the mall to the beam that later caved in, but he told the court on Friday that he did not do a follow up examination on the structure in 2012 even though nothing prevented him from doing so. 

Crown prosecutor Marc Huneault pointed out that Wood knew there was rust on the beam from his original inspection. 

Only brought a measuring tape to inspections

Huneault showed Wood photographs on Thursday of the long, burgundy structure. Wood testified he observed "minor surface rust" in 2009, but did not have any reason to examine further because he did not see "any signs of distress."

Wood was hired to do the 2009 examination by the shopping centre's owner Bob Nazarian, who had been given a city order to have a certified engineer inspect the entire building and correct deficiencies, such as excessive rust on the parking deck surface.

Wood testified there were conflicting instructions in the city's order, but he did not ask for clarification.

He explained to the court that he had access to instruments from his firm, M.R. Wright and Associates, to measure the amount of damage caused by rust, but Wood said he only brought a measuring tape to his inspections. 

'I chose not to go up and look'

During his last visit, Wood walked through the mall's food court and lottery kiosk area, where the eventual collapse happened, according to testimony.

Wood could see the inner workings of the ceiling where tiles had been removed, he said, and asked mall staff why they were missing, but did not get an explanation.

Huneault questioned if Wood tried to find out what was going on.

Wood replied no because he could see the inside of the ceiling from the ground, and did not notice any leakage. 

"I chose not to go up and look at it," Wood said. 

"In an area that has no water damage, I don't go up and look."

Cross examination to conclude on Monday

Wood could not recall on Friday if he brought his 2009 report and photos of the building to his 2012 examination, in which he declared the mall "structurally sound."

He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. If convicted, he could be given a maximum life sentence.

Wood is expected to face more questions about why he did not further inspect the Algo Centre Mall, which witnesses say had leaked for decades, when the trial resumes on Monday at 9:30 a.m. 

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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.