'Hopefully, someday we'll see justice': Elliot Lake marks 5 years since deadly mall collapse

The community of Elliot Lake, Ont., is marking a tragic anniversary on Friday. Five years ago, a deadly mall roof collapse killing two of their citizens. The site of the disaster remains vacant as a daily reminder of what occurred on June 23, 2012.

Community still haunted by 2012 tragedy that killed Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo

Elliot Lake, Ont., city hall can be seen just beyond the worn out sign that used to publicize the Algo Centre Mall. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Cars on Ontario Avenue in Elliot Lake, Ont., pass by a dusty, deserted property spanning several city blocks.

An abandoned demolition machine, worn out signs and a road leading to where the Algo Centre Mall's parking deck used to be are all that is left on the site.

The building had to be torn down after a rusty steel beam that was supporting the shopping centre's roof gave way on June 23, 2012. 

Lucie Aylwin, 37, was killed while assisting her lottery kiosk customer Doloris Perizzolo, 74. More than 20 others were injured when cars and cement came crashing down. 

Luc Cyr was about to walk into Zellers with his wife and daughter when the collapse happened.

"Everybody started running and screaming out of the plaza," Cyr said. 

"I could see the smoke rising above the Foodland area in the main entrance ... It was a difficult day."

'Open skies and boulders'

Cyr said he put his family into their car for safety, then ran into the mall to check on his staff at Foodland, which he managed at the time. 

"I was stunned," Cyr said. "What used to be the escalator and the hotel all of a sudden was just open skies and boulders and water running down."

Elliot Lake Mayor Dan Marchisella is reminded of the tragedy every time he goes to work at city hall, which is located beside the mall's property. 

"It's kind of like an open wound," Marchisella said. "A wound that won't heal in the community."

Marchisella said he cannot say if the city is interested in the land at this time. 

It is unclear what will happen to the site. Advertisements for the property still line the premises. The lawyer for the owner declined CBC's request for an interview. 

Remediating the site

"Hopefully, someday we'll see something be done with that lot," Marchisella said.

"Hopefully, someday we'll see justice for Lucie's family. We'll see justice for Doloris's family, and for the community as a whole."

It may take a long time for people in Elliot Lake to recover from the mall collapse, but many believe remediating the site of the tragedy might be a good start. 

"They could've rebuilt it [mall]," resident Barbara Scriber said. 

"Left the place empty in between where they [Aylwin and Perizzolo] passed away and did a memorial park in there, but they didn't. It's still left like that."

'Take the time to absorb what's happened'

On June 1, the only person facing criminal charges in connection with the mall collapse was acquitted.

Former engineer Robert Wood was cleared of three counts of criminal negligence after he had declared the shopping centre structurally sound two months before its roof caved in.

The Crown has not said if it will seek an appeal yet. 

"I think we all have to take the time to absorb what's happened, and hopefully we can all help improve the system so things can change," Cyr said.

"We need to be united in moving forward."


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: