Family wants answers after senior falls to his death on construction site

A walk along the Toronto waterfront was part of the daily routine for Carl Mollins, even at age 84, no matter the weather. Until he wandered into a condo building under construction and fell down an elevator shaft.

Carl Mollins, 84, walked along the Toronto harbourfront daily, until falling down an elevator shaft

Carl Mollins died after falling into an elevator shaft at a partially constructed condominium on Queen's Quay. The 84-year-old walked along the Toronto waterfront daily. (Tracey Mollins)

A walk along the Toronto waterfront was part of the daily routine for Carl Mollins, even at age 84, no matter the weather. 

It was during one of those walks that Mollins entered the Pier 27 condominium site on Queen's Quay, its structure completed but with construction work still underway, on May 17, 2016.

Reports from the coroner and the Ministry of Labour suggest he stepped through a doorway that opened onto an empty elevator shaft and fell to the concrete floor of the parking garage, five metres below.

The fall shattered Mollins's ribs, pelvis and spine. He spent 11 days on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of St. Michael`s Hospital before he died.   

His family want to know why an active construction site was left so accessible that a senior could simply walk in and fall to his death. 

They may get some answers starting Thursday, the first court date in the case against the builders of Pier 27.  

This photo of the Pier 27 condo construction site was taken by one of Mollins's daughters about a month after his death. (Tracey Mollins)

Last month, just shy of one year after Mollins fell, Dominus Construction Group was charged with four counts of violating Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act, for failing to ensure adequate fencing, warning signs and fall protection.

Also facing the same charges are the partnership of Fernbrook Homes (Pier 27) Ltd., Cityzen Pier 27 Inc. and Archway Harbourfront Inc. None of the charges has been proven in court.

Fence 'incomplete,' according to inspector  

"The fence around the perimeter of the project building was incomplete in certain areas," wrote the provincial occupational health and safety inspector in his initial report, filed within hours of Mollins's fall.  

The Ministry of Labour inspector also wrote that the door to the elevator shaft "failed to comply" with provincial law requiring adequate guardrail protection. 

Mollins's daughter, Julie Mollins, said in an interview with CBC Toronto that the case was "swept under the carpet" until she pushed the Ministry of Labour about laying charges. 

"If I hadn't pursued this, then nothing would have happened, is my belief, nothing," she said.

"As the family, we've had a lot of trouble getting information about what happened," Mollins said. "We have been basically relegated to the same role you're in when you're trying to pursue a problem with your phone bill." 

Julie Mollins believes charges would not have been laid in connection with her father's death had she not pressed the issue with the ministry. (CBC)

Her father had a storied career in journalism for The Canadian Press and Maclean's, including time covering Parliament Hill and Washington, D.C., as well as reporting from China, the Middle East and the Arctic. An obituary in the Globe and Mail described him as "a journalist's journalist." 

"One reason why he was in such great shape was he walked every single day, rain or shine, snow, winds, no matter what," Mollins said.

Living near Toronto's Christie Pits in his retirement, he typically took the TTC to the lakeshore for his daily walks. He'd start with a cappuccino at Corus Quay and walk to Queen`s Quay Terminal, tracing the waterfront that he loved. This route took him past the Pier 27 construction site, at 29 Queen's Quay East.

'So many broken ribs' 

"He was on the site as a pedestrian who was able to gain access because there was no proper barrier," said his daughter. "The construction company has an obligation to protect the public, and this is a case where they weren't." 

CBC Toronto tried on Wednesday to contact officials from all of the construction companies that were charged, but did not receive any response to repeated messages. 

Mollins took his daily walk along the waterfront in all weather. (Tracey Mollins)

According to photos from the scene, a plain white door led to the elevator shaft, said Mollins.

"The police say he opened that door and fell through," she said. "We think he was probably attempting to go through the foyer of the building to get to the other side." 

He survived the fall, but "had so many broken ribs that he couldn't breathe properly on his own," said Mollins. 

The Mollins family has just made it through the anniversary of Carl's fall and his death, but are bracing themselves for more emotion on Father's Day and his upcoming birthday later in June.

"I miss him a great deal," said his daughter.