Son of owner of doomed northern Ontario mall set to testify at inquiry today

The Nazarians' testimony will wrap up the first part of the inquiry into the Elliot Lake mall disaster

ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. – Two key witnesses are set to testify over the next two weeks at the inquiry into why the mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., collapsed last summer.

The testimony from mall owner Bob Nazarian and his son Levon will essentially close out the first part of the inquiry.

Levon Nazarian, who worked as a contractor and an administrator, is slated to testify first starting today.

Bob Nazarian owned the mall for its last seven years.

The inquiry has heard how the leaky mall deteriorated during his ownership until its roof-top garage caved in, killing two women.

Much of the community’s anger over the tragedy — the result of decades of water and salt penetration that rotted the steel supporting the garage — has been directed at the Nazarians.

Witnesses have described Bob Nazarian, who turns 68 next week, as someone who could be charming, but also as a tight-fisted bully who fired employees and contractors at will and badgered others into falsifying documents to downplay the mall’s state of disrepair.

Evidence before the inquiry to date is that Nazarian either would not or could not do what was needed to save the mall, whose problems began with its poor design and construction in 1979.

Nazarian, of Richmond Hill, Ont., bought the mall through his company, Eastwood Mall Inc., from its second owner in 2005. He has said he spent about $1 million on repairing a roof beset with problems he inherited.

The inquiry has also heard Nazarian pressed an engineer to alter an inspection report to downplay the problems in the weeks before the collapse.

On June 23, 2012, part of the roof-top parking deck caved in on staff and shoppers, sparking a frantic but fruitless search of the rubble for survivors.

Days later, searchers pulled the bodies of Lucie Aylwin, 37, and Doloris Perizzolo, 74, from the twisted remains.

The Nazarians will be among the last of about 70 witnesses testifying at Part 1 of the inquiry into the causes of the collapse.

Part 2, which will look at the emergency response to the collapse, is slated to begin at the end of the month.