Another roof collapses in Elliot Lake, Ont.

Six years after a deadly mall collapse made national headlines, the roof of another public building in Elliot Lake has partially caved in.

Man inside civic centre during cave-in also survived 2012 mall collapse that killed 2

The roof of the Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre partially collapsed Thursday evening. Some damage can be seen on the roof's left side. (Jean-Loup Doudard/Radio-Canada)

Six years after a deadly mall collapse made national headlines, the roof of another public building in Elliot Lake, Ont., has partially caved in. 

The roof of the Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre partially collapsed on Thursday evening.

Murray Finn and two other members of the Elliot Lake Amateur Theatre Ensemble were in the auditorium, getting ready for the final dress rehearsal for the play Shorthanded, which was scheduled to open Friday.

"I heard a couple of small cracks and then one big crack and then I said, 'Let's get going,' and we ran as fast as we could," says Finn, the director of the play. 

"It happened so fast you don't have time to think about it, you just react and be thankful that you get out alive."

This collapse brings back bad memories for many in the northeastern Ontario city, where in June 2012, part of the roof-top parking garage at the Algo Centre mall collapsed, killing two women. 

Finn was in the mall that day, performing a lunch-time dinner theatre production, and similarly heard loud noises coming from the ceiling and ran out of the area.

"I've got this little guy sitting on my shoulder looking after me and I'm pretty glad he's there," says Finn. 

"I feel bloody lucky."

This time, on Thursday, Finn says, the lights went out as the roof collapsed in the midst of the 340-seat auditorium, and he didn't get a good look at the damage.

The Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre, in an undated photo from the City of Elliot Lake's website, houses a 340-unit auditorium. (City of Elliot Lake)

His assistant director fell as they were running out of the room and he went back inside, through the darkness, helped her up and got her out of the building. 

"I wasn't thinking. I just wanted to make sure she was OK," says Finn.

"There were beams down around her. She was quite shaken, but she was all right."

Part of the roof of the Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake collapsed in June 2012, killing two women.

The City of Elliot Lake says firefighters and public works crews were on site within minutes and there was one minor injury. 

The civic centre was built as a hotel during the uranium boom days, but was renovated in the 1990s and now is home to an auditorium, art gallery, mining museum and various offices.

The building is closed until further notice, and as a precaution all programming in the city's arena, pool and a smaller community centre have been cancelled until further notice.

The city has also temporarily moved its recreation department to city hall.

The city says it will provide more information later Friday, but chief administrative officer Dan Gagnon told CBC News that heavy snowfall is a likely cause.

Crews are removing snow from the building as a precaution, and Gagnon says a structural engineer is consulting with the city on the state of the collapsed roof.

The city is also inspecting its other buildings.

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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