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Criminal charges laid in Elliot Lake mall collapse (update)

Friday, January 31, 2014   by: SooToday.com Staff

At a press conference today in Elliot Lake, OPP Detective Superintendent David Truax and OPP Deputy Commissioner Scott Tod told members of the media that a retired Sault Ste. Marie engineer and former president of the now-shuttered firm of M.R. Wright and Associates faces criminal charges in connection to the June 23, 2012 Elliot Lake mall collapse that claimed two lives and injured 20.

Robert Wood has been charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

He was reportedly arrested in Sault Ste. Marie this morning prior to today's press conference.

Representatives from M.R. Wright and Associates conducted a structural condition inspection of   the Algo Centre Mall's leaking roof and parking deck on April 12, 2012.

A letter dated May 3, 2012 addressed to mall manager Rhonda Bear and signed by both Robert Wood and manager of engineering Gregory Saunders, states: "Our inspection revealed evidence of rusting on the structural steel beam members in areas where the parking deck has leaked. All beams inspected had little loss of section and we would consider the members still structurally sound."

Previous to this, M.R. Wright and Associates was commissioned in 2009 to inspect these same areas of the Algo Centre Mall, and the report dated October 28, 2009 states that a visual inspection found only minor rust in most areas and "inspection revealed no visual structural concerns both with the structural steel or prestressed slabs."

The full report issued by M.R. Wright and Associates in May 2012 can be viewed here.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, charged Wood in April 2013 with endangering a worker as a result of providing negligent advice and working in a manner that may endanger a worker.

These Ontario Ministry of Labour charges are expected to be spoken to on February 4, 2014.

In an unrelated matter, the firm of M.R. Wright and Associates, specifically Robert Wood and Gregory Saunders, were found guilty of professional misconduct by a discipline committee representing Professional Engineers Ontario in relation to a logging bridge located in Northern Ontario.

Both Woods and Saunders were ordered to take tests in order to maintain their engineering licences.

While Saunders passed the required test, Woods' licence was suspended.

At the time of the April 12, 2012 inspection of the Algo Centre Mall parking structure, Woods' licence remained under suspension.

Following today's announcement in Elliot Lake, SooToday.com reached OPP Detective Superintendent David Truax for comment.

When asked if additional criminal charges may be pending, he answered simply: "Our investigation continues."

A news release issued today by the Ontario Provincial Police follows.

*************************
ELLIOT LAKE, ON - Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has charged one person following the investigation into the fatal roof collapse in Elliot Lake.

Two lives were tragically lost at the Algo Centre Mall on June 23, 2012.

Following the initial stages of the death investigation, information obtained by members of the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) led to a criminal investigation commencing on July 3, 2012.

At a brief media conference in Elliot Lake today, police announced they have charged Robert Wood, aged 64 years of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with two counts of Criminal Negligence Causing Death and one count of Criminal Negligence Causing Bodily Harm, and is expected to appear in court in Elliot Lake on March 25, 2014.

The OPP will not be commenting further on the specific aspects of the investigation that led to the charges as the investigation is ongoing.

Information regarding the OPP role during the emergency response is contained within the minutes of the ongoing public inquiry.

*************************
Comments
21
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
scottstewy123 1/31/2014 11:22:11 AM Report

Well Robert you did give the building a green light and declared the build sound.But in the past you told a prospecting buyer the roof is in danger of collapsing.
right wing 1/31/2014 11:23:14 AM Report

Following this story from the beginning the OPP must have some strong evidence to pin this on just one person.
The whole deal was a colossal screw up from the beginning.
With all the passing the buck and sweeping under the carpet that was taking place there should be more than one person charged IMO.
cathyh 1/31/2014 11:57:23 AM Report

right wing: I have to agree with you. I watched quite a bit of the inquiry on my computer and there was a lot of passing the buck and memory loss done by some very high-up people, IMHO.
chatterbox 1/31/2014 12:18:09 PM Report

I'm not a fan of how he acted on the stand and I'm sure that same arrogance is what lead him to be suspended (too much pride to admit wrongdoing...too much pride to take steps to be re-instated). I also suspect it was that same arrogance "i've been looking at steel for 40 years" which resulted in a hasty review of the structure, with limited notes, and a change to the final report after it was signed by a P.eng etc...

Having said all of this, it's difficult to pin this on one person. Unfortuneatly Mr. Woods arrogance makes him an easy target. My understanding is that it is the Min. of Labour that is charging him, who happened to have offices in the mall...Have a look at the Min. of labour fella's testimony at the inquiry...It's the biggest joke....
good4now 1/31/2014 12:19:19 PM Report

Is This Charge Unwarranted?
I understand that this engineer was sent to inspect the mall. What was the scope of his mandate? Was he sent to do a visual inspection, or did his employer equip him with metallurgical X-Ray devices or qualified x-ray equipment operators?
Was he allowed or provided the opportunity to remove material that may have hindered or limited his inspection?
If he was sent to do a visual examination, of a structure that had been known to have been rusting for over 30 years what kind of results could have been expected? He might have found loose or missing parts, sagging components, ect. But the weakness was not visually observable.
Certainly he could have reported that years of rusting COULD be at the point of causing danger, but what would have been the evidence for this? Was he remiss in not clearly indicating that a visual inspection (if that's what it was) was inadequate for determining the safety of the structure?
I can place blame on him ONLY if he was provided with CLEAR instructions and cooperation to WHATEVER was necessary to determine the state of the building.
chatterbox 1/31/2014 12:33:54 PM Report

well put good4now, There appear to be plenty of holes in all of this...The only think that could be criminal is changing the report...
scottstewy123 1/31/2014 12:37:13 PM Report

It will be interesting to follow this court case.
scottstewy123 1/31/2014 12:38:36 PM Report

Or is this guy being made to be the fall guy
bugalugs 1/31/2014 12:59:54 PM Report

It is so very sad that those two lives were lost, nothing can bring them back now, nothing can stop the pain the family members are in. This man was guilty of negligence but he is so very far from being the only one to blame,,,,,how many years was this roof to be left in a state of disrepair before a tragedy happened. The mall owner, the people who sold it to them like that, the building code inspectors....this list is long..This man is far from being to only one responsible!
Nunavut 1/31/2014 1:05:57 PM Report

I followed this very closely during hearing and read each day's transcript from the inquiry website, and there is much more to this than a short media blurb states, and he is just one of many that are still being investigated. Eg primarily the last mall owner! Keep in mind that this engineer was withheld information that the mall owner had, for example a hunk of concrete that fell a year before and landed in a restaraunt. His brand new mall manager specifically left it in owners hands to pursue further as to why 18 inch long hunk of concrete fell and owner did nothing and did not get engineer at the time and did not tell this engineer that a problem had occurred very close to spot that later collapsed. Also mall owners staff told him about a consistent deck movement and expressed worry about it and mall owner ignored and eventually fired that employee. So much more coming I suspect, this one is just one of the obvious errors, (of note the owner told the engineer to remove sections of engineer report because it was outside of scope of work owner had asked report to cover.......the other culprits in this mess are harder to nail down with proof....but stay tuned!
MikeQ 1/31/2014 1:06:08 PM Report

@bugalugs

One should be careful to say that one is guilty. This article simply states that he is the one (if not, one of the multiple) person(s) being charged. He very well could be the "fall guy" who's taking the charges, but it will be up to the courts to determine this. I was there in the mall the day before the thing fell, and it was quite obvious that the structure was in a great state of disrepair. There are many people who could very easily be charged as well. I'm sure that this will continue to be a lengthy invesigation/trial, and that many other names will be dropped (as they already have been) when discussing blame and responsibility.
bounder 1/31/2014 1:32:42 PM Report

The same rules should apply to self -proclaimed house inspectors.
Responsibility for your decision.
MAC09 1/31/2014 1:44:51 PM Report

I am glad someone is getting charged , the list does however continue beyond one person. I bet they wont even advertise any other charges. This mall was an accident waiting to happen since I was around. I remember sections of the library closed and buckets with chunks of drywall, concrete and water all over . The foodcourt wasn't the foodcourt if the buckets weren't there. The big puddle on the roof because the drain didnt work. I will miss this mall , sketchyness and all! I am so very sorry deaths happened. But I am very glad the deaths were a minimal amount. Being the only mall in town it could of been extremely worse. It is a tragedy!
RonBes 1/31/2014 1:57:57 PM Report

A good step to resolving this tragedy, however, the owner also needs to be charged.
toady 1/31/2014 4:07:28 PM Report

Once an engineer puts his stamp of approval on an inspection the owner is off the hook. That is why an engineer has a license. He could have condemned the building but did not.
Verbatim 1/31/2014 4:16:12 PM Report

Lets try to remember people that this is just a charge. It is indicative of guilt. Nor does it imply that the individual is guilty of anything other than doing the job that he was trained for. It will be up to the courts to decide wether or not there was negligence
Tag33&1/3rd 1/31/2014 4:45:35 PM Report

@Good4Now

I agree completely about if they had the proper testing equipment to actually see these beams entirely.
I hung out in the mall in my teen years-
there was always leaks and roof-top parking issues. I think the ACR possibly short-cutted in materials when they built the place to begin with.
Stugatzu 1/31/2014 4:56:36 PM Report

When you're a professional engineer with a P.Eng designation -- you are 100% accountable for anything you sign-off on. The OPP doesn't really need to investigate too hard, all that had to be concluded was that the engineering firm was at fault for giving a green light, and then engineer that signed the paperwork is in hot water.
StandUpForRight 2/1/2014 9:55:02 AM Report

And for alternative news and stories about a variety of instances of abuse of authority, infringement of Charter rights, violations of federal and provincial statutes, corruption and incompetence in the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) visit the ‘Ontario Provincial Police Hall of Shame’ website located @ www.discriminationopp.org
Vmax-4 2/1/2014 10:57:12 AM Report

@ StandUpForRight

What is the significance of your post? Did you even read the comments or did you just feel this was a good opportunity to advertise a BS web site.
Bad Dawg 2/1/2014 7:08:35 PM Report

fall guy or not.... he signed off on it, he said it was structurally sound. 2 months later it falls, unless he can prove a payoff by the slumlord owers.... he is guilty.

Comments
21
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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