Defence concludes case in mall collapse trial

Defence lawyer Robert MacRae has closed his case in the trial of the only person criminally charged in connection to the fatal 2012 Elliot Lake, Ont., mall collapse.

Closing submissions are expected to start at the end of January

Robert Wood walks to court in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on January 12 accompanied by his wife. (Natacha Lavigne/Radio-Canada)

Defence lawyer Robert MacRae has closed his case in the trial of the only person criminally charged in connection to the fatal 2012 Elliot Lake, Ont., mall collapse. 

MacRae is representing discredited engineer Robert Wood, who declared the Algo Centre Mall structurally sound in 2012 just weeks before a portion of its rooftop parking deck caved in, and killed 37-year-old Lucie Aylwin and 74-year-old Doloris Perizzolo.

Wood has pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. 

His trial is taking place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., where Wood was arrested in 2014.

Wood finished his testimony in Superior Court on Monday after spending five days in the witness box answering questions about his 2009 and 2012 inspections of the shopping centre.

Afterwards, MacRae called engineer Philip Sarvinis from the company Read Jones Christoffersen as his second witness.

Sarvinis was tasked with finding a way to move parking from the rooftop of the Algo Centre Mall in 2010 because of leakage, he told the court, adding he was not concerned about the steel beam that supported the structure at the time.

Sarvinis also testified at a 2013 independent public inquiry that was launched by the Ontario government to find the cause of the roof collapse and to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future. 

The trial adjourned early on Tuesday after one of MacRae's witnesses experienced a flight issue. MacRae finished calling the last of his witnesses on Wednesday.

'No visual signs of structural distress'

Wood was hired by the Algo Centre Mall's owner Bob Nazarian in 2009 to do his first inspection of the building after Nazarian received a city order to have the mall examined by a certified engineer and correct deficiencies, such as excessive rust on the parking deck.

Wood concluded in his final report on the mall that the building showed "no visual signs of structural distress."

His engineering licence was suspended shortly before his last examination and then later revoked after confessing to professional misconduct in regards to an unrelated bridge rehabilitation project over the Kabinakagami River in northern Ontario.

Closing submissions in Wood's trial are expected to start at the end of January. 


Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome: