Toronto

TCH misses its own deadline to replace AC units after death of toddler

The family of a toddler killed by a falling air conditioning unit at a Toronto Community Housing building last fall says they're disappointed but not surprised by the news that many of the units are still in TCH apartments, their lawyer says.

Victim's family 'not very surprised but they're very saddened,' their lawyer says

Richard Grotsch of Toronto Community Community Housing says he expects all 7,000 window-mounted air conditioning units will be removed from apartments by the end of this week. (Mike Smee/CBC)

The family of a toddler killed by a falling air conditioning unit at a Toronto Community Housing (TCH) building last fall says they're disappointed but not surprised by the news that many of the units are still in TCH apartments, their lawyer says.

In a report last week to the TCH board, chief operating officer Sheila Penny states that about three per cent of the 6,840 air conditioners — more than 200 — remained in place. The city-owned corporation had promised to have them all removed by Christmas of 2019.

Crystal Mirogho died in November after she was crushed by a window-mounted air conditioner that fell from an eighth- floor ledge outside her Lawrence Avenue East building.

"They're not very surprised but they're very saddened," her family's lawyer, Slavko Ristich, told CBC Toronto.

"They had figured that with such a tragic incident that happened with their daughter that the TCHC would be moving extremely quickly to ensure that something like this couldn't happen in the future."

At least a dozen exterior air conditioning units can be seen on this TCH building at 2401 Yonge St. The agency had pledged to have them all removed by last Christmas. TCH now says they'll all be gone by the end of this week. (Mike Smee/CBC)

The social housing agency had been warned at least twice before — once in a 2007 report to the board and again in 2017 — that the window units were dangerous and should be replaced.

TCH pledged shortly after the toddler's death that it would have all the window-mounted units removed from multi-storey buildings by Christmas, unless they were suspended over balconies. 

Crystal Mirogho died after being struck by an air conditioning unit that fell from a TCH high-rise. Her family's lawyer says they're 'not very surprised but they're very saddened' that TCH has yet to remove some of those units. (GoFundMe)

At the same time, TCH announced it was accelerating a swap-out program that would allow residents in buildings three storeys or higher to exchange their window-mounted units for portable floor models at no charge.

But not everyone has bought into the plan, according to TCH tenancy resolutions officer Richard Grotsch.

Lawyer Slavko Ristich is representing the family of Crystal Mirogho in its lawsuit against the TCH. He says the family had hoped all the agency's window-mounted AC units would be removed by now. (Tina McKenzie/CBC)

He said some tenants won't allow TCH to remove their window air conditioners because they're required to help treat medical conditions. Others are refusing to allow TCH into their units.

He said TCH staff are working to overcome those hurdles.

As well, an initial TCH assessment pegged the number of window-mounted AC units in its taller buildings at 5,400. But as TCH contractors began the job of cataloguing and removing the units, they discovered the number was actually much larger — closer to 7,000, according to Penny's report.

That new, larger number has meant it's taking the TCH longer to get to all the AC units.

Grotsch said the agency is moving to finish the job as quickly as possible.

"Starting in the next week or so, we'll be doing some swap-outs and installing some of the portable units, and it'll continue throughout the summer," he said.

"We anticipate that the 7,000 units will be swapped out and in place in time for the summer cooling season," which starts in June.

TCH plans on expanding its replacement schedule to cover window-mounted AC units in its townhomes and smaller buildings this spring as well, the report says.

About the Author

Michael Smee

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Michael Smee has worked in print, radio, TV and online journalism for many years. You can reach him at michael.smee@cbc.ca