Sudbury·ELLIOT LAKE

Why Robert Wood is no longer a professional engineer

Former engineer Robert Wood had no business visually inspecting the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on April 12, 2012, according to the registrar for Professional Engineers Ontario.

Former engineer inspected the Algo Centre Mall after his credentials stripped months earlier

A heavily corroded steel connection supporting a portion of the Algo Centre Mall's rooftop parking deck in Elliot Lake, Ont., gave way on June 23, 2012.

Former engineer Robert Wood had no business visually inspecting the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on April 12, 2012, according to an official with Professional Engineers Ontario. 

"He should not have been doing that," PEO registrar Gerard McDonald told CBC News.

"His licence ... was suspended at that time."

Wood had declared the shopping centre structurally sound after his spring 2012 structural assessment. 

Ten weeks later, on June 23, 2012, a heavily corroded steel connection supporting a portion of the shopping centre's rooftop parking deck gave way, causing a collapse that killed two women.

Wood is now facing two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in connection to the mall collapse. He has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

Wood will learn the verdict of his case on July 25.

Robert Wood's engineering licence was suspended before his last visual inspection of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on April 12, 2012 — just 10 weeks before a part of the building's roof caved in and killed two women. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Confessions of professional misconduct

In November 2011, Wood had his engineering licence suspended because he under-designed a private bridge during rehabilitation work on a forest access road in northeastern Ontario, McDonald said.

McDonald estimates his organization receives approximately 300 complaints each year and about 10 go to discipline hearings. 

One or two cases result in suspension.

"You lose your professional livelihood," McDonald said.

"It's the same as a doctor losing his licence or her licence to practise, and a lawyer not being able to practise law." 

According to a report from Professional Engineers Ontario, Wood overestimated the amount of weight that could go on a bridge over the Kabinakagami River, which is located north of Wawa, Ont., and east of Hornepayne, Ont., by 28.5 tonnes. 

He also conducted site inspections without a work permit, as required by Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

The bridge has since been barricaded by a ditch and concrete barrier so it is not passable by vehicles, because it did not meet Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code or Crown Land Bridge Management Guidelines, according to the ministry's northeast planning ecologist Lisa Keable. 

The forest in the area is overseen by Wagner Forest Management Ltd

Wood has since confessed to professional misconduct, and his engineering licence was revoked in relation to the bridge project in November 2012. 

Questions in Sault Ste. Marie

Wood worked as a professional engineer for over three decades. He designed and inspected many hotels and prominent buildings where he worked out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. 

The city has not received any complaints about Wood's work, according to deputy CAO Tom Vair; however, it is waiting to see what will come of Wood's criminal charges in connection to the Algo Centre Mall collapse.

"At that point we would have to, as a city, look at the interest of the community in having any of those buildings inspected," Vair said.

"Because it's their [private] property and it'd be up to them to look at that."

There are not any legislative requirements for the city to review buildings unless the property owner flags an issue, Vair added.

About the Author

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: olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.

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