ELLIOT LAKE

Crown says it was 'painfully evident' how severe Algo Centre Mall leakage was

The Crown is expected to rest its case on Friday in the trial of the only person criminally charged in connection to the deadly 2012 Algo Centre Mall collapse in Elliot Lake, Ont.

Witnesses testified earlier to seeing rust flaking 'like pages of a book' on shopping centre before collapse

Robert Wood's trial is taking place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., at his request.

The Crown is expected to rest its case on Friday in the trial of the only person criminally charged in connection to the deadly 2012 Algo Centre Mall collapse in Elliot Lake, Ont.

Former engineer Robert Wood declared the building structurally sound after conducting a visual inspection on April 12, 2012 — 10 weeks before a portion of the rooftop parking deck caved in on June 23, of the same year. 

The catastrophe severely injured Jean-Marie Marceau, 80, and killed Lucie Aylwin, 37, and Doloris Perizzolo, 74.

Witnesses testified earlier to seeing rust flaking like "pages of a book" near the area of the parking deck before the steel beam supporting it gave way. 

Some even recalled hearing strange shock waves coming from the rooftop, and feeling the cement bounce when cars drove over it
    
"It defies common sense that a person with skill and knowledge actively looking for these conditions failed to spot these things," Crown prosecutor David Kirk said to Justice Edward Gareau on Thursday. 

"How can he miss these things?"

'Failed at such a base level'

Wood inspected the mall twice — once in 2009 and again in 2012.

He was arrested where his trial is taking place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Jan. 31, 2014 for two counts of criminal negligence causing death, and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in relation to the building's collapse.

Wood has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

He testified earlier in the trial that he did not examine the area of the shopping centre that eventually collapsed above a lottery kiosk and food court in 2012, because he did not believe it warranted a closer look based on what he saw at the time, and since he was told mall maintenance staff were planning repairs. 
Former engineer Robert Wood has pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in connection to the 2012 Elliot Lake, Ont., mall collapse. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Kirk told the court Wood is either not being truthful about what he actually observed at the mall or he simply did not know what he was doing.

"He [Wood] failed at such a base level," Kirk said of Wood's inspections. 

"It was painfully evident how severe that leaking was."

Wood's defence lawyer Robert MacRae said in his closing statements that his client was misled by the mall's owner Bob Nazarian on the condition of the structure, and that certain evidence was concealed from Wood, including the fact that the mall's roof had been leaking since the day it was built.

Nazarian has not been charged in connection to the roof collapse, and none of the allegations against him have been proven in court. 

Prof says engineers have to 'listen to the people'

MacRae also previously argued that the Crown cannot prove criminal negligence against Wood because engineering evidence is subjective. 

"The court cannot get into the mind of an engineer who makes a judgment call," MacRae said. 
Sal Ienco, a Sault College civil engineering professor, has been in court following Robert Wood's trial for closing submissions. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Sal Ienco has been coming to the trial to learn and pass on lessons to his students at Sault College, where he teaches civil engineering.

"We have to make some judgment calls on the things that we do," Ienco said about his profession. 

"But we have to also listen to the people who are telling us things that are happening. The Elliot [Lake] ... folks knew for a very long time things that didn't feel right, and I believe we have to take that into consideration."

Ienco said he believes Wood's trial could have implications for engineers across the country.

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.