Decision expected in Elliot Lake mall collapse trial

A highly anticipated ruling is expected for the trial of the only person facing criminal charges in connection with a 2012 northern Ontario mall collapse that killed two women.

Former engineer Robert Wood declared Elliot Lake's mall structurally sound 2 months before its roof collapsed

Former engineer Robert Wood faces two counts of criminal negligence causing death, and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

A highly anticipated ruling is expected for the trial of the only person facing criminal charges in connection with a northern Ontario mall collapse that killed two women five years ago.

Justice Edward Gareau is expected to give his decision on Thursday at a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., courthouse in the trial of former engineer Robert Wood eight weeks earlier than originally scheduled.

Wood gave the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., a clean bill of health two months before a portion of its rooftop parking deck caved in.

Huge pieces of concrete, twisted steel and cars came crashing down on June 23, 2012.

Lucie Aylwin, 37, was killed as she worked at the shopping centre's lottery booth along with her customer Doloris Perizzolo, 74.

"When it's all finished, then we can make a closure," Lucie's father Rejean Aylwin told CBC News earlier.

"If that mall would've been inspected properly that probably would've saved two lives and saved a lot of people hurt for nothing."

Precedent for engineering profession?

During his time in the witness box, Wood insisted he believed the shopping centre was structurally sound.

The defence argued that Wood was misled by the mall's owner on the condition of the building's water leaks.

Wood also said that if he knew the building was in such bad condition, he would have ordered a more detailed inspection and shut it down.

The catastrophe rocked Ontario's engineering community and led to many changes, including the establishment of minimum standards of maintenance for public buildings, and making information about building conditions easily accessible and understandable

The outcome of Wood's trial may lead to more industry modifications, according to Professional Engineers Ontario registrar Gerard McDonald.

"It sets a precedent that whatever work that engineer does is not above the law," McDonald said.

"They have to keep the law in mind when they're designing buildings or facilities or applying their practice"

The defence is trying to stay Wood's charges because it took 32 months for Wood to get a trial.

Wood's charter challenge was supposed to be heard last April, but it was delayed.

Now Wood's charter application is scheduled to be heard after Gareau's ruling on July 25, if necessary, according to senior media relations coordinator Emilie Smith from the Ministry of the Attorney General.

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: