It looked like any mall on any Saturday afternoon. People sitting in a food court, sipping drinks. Shoppers coming and going, security cameras filming their fateful steps. A lottery kiosk stocked with magazines and scratch tickets. Lucie Aylwin, working alone behind the lotto booth, was dressed in a bright green shirt and black ballet flats. She was 37. Doloris Perizzolo, 74, stood at one side of the counter, a purse on her arm. She had her hair done that morning.
On the other side of the kiosk, opposite Doloris, another customer turned and walked away. Watching the surveillance footage, it’s as if the roof waited for her to leave. As soon as she was safely out of the way—at precisely 2:18 p.m.—the ceiling caved in, sending thousands of pounds of concrete crashing down on Lucie and Doloris.
How a shopping mall fell into such a state of disrepair that it literally crumbled to the ground is just one key question for an ongoing public inquiry. In the weeks to come, the commission will also examine the ensuing rescue effort, and why it took four days (and some political intervention) to reach those two women buried in the debris. But amid all the questions—and all the inevitable finger pointing—are some chilling new exhibits that reveal, yet again, how horrific that day was for so many.
In one of the most dramatic recordings, Capt. Darren Connors, an Elliot Lake firefighter, reports making contact with a potential survivor stuck in the rubble. “I think I’m managing to communicate with her,” he says over his portable radio. “Most of it is just really hard to understand.”
- Investigators seized the mall’s many security cameras. They discovered that the moment of the collapse was recorded from multiple angles.
- Margrit Pulkowski, an assistant manager at Dollarama, was among the first to dial 911 that afternoon. “The roof just collapsed at the Algo Centre Mall,” she told the dispatcher. “We’re all too afraid to go out there.”
- Elliot Lake firefighters and paramedics rushed onto the rubble pile in search of survivors. They found Doloris Perizzolo pinned under a concrete slab, but she did not have a pulse. The fire chief, Paul Officer, eventually ordered his men out of the building because it was too unsafe. A HUSAR team (Heavy Urban Search and Rescue) was later dispatched from Toronto.
“A whole from the second floor down”
“We’re doing casualty removal starting now”
“We have one patient trapped in a void”
“We can’t go underneath that at all”
“We have people trapped in the rubble”
“We haven’t heard anything from the victims for an hour”
“We’ve located the person, but it’s going to take us a while”
- Three hours after the collapse, an OPP helicopter flew over the mall and recorded the wreckage below.
- Engineers for HUSAR and the Ontario Ministry of Labour examined the collapse zone before the HUSAR team began its portion of the rescue effort.
- The structural beam that collapsed was one of the dangers obstructing the rescue effort. A crew of welders was sent down in a crane to sever the beam from the building.
- A Ford Explorer crashed through the roof when the parking lot caved in. It had to be hoisted out of the hole to allow rescue workers to continue their search.