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2 victims from Elliot Lake mall collapse identified

The two victims of the Elliot Lake mall collapse have been identified as Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo.

Their identities were confirmed by Premier Dalton McGuinty as he spoke from the scene of the tragedy at the city’s Algo Centre Mall around 5:40 p.m.

McGuinty landed in Elliot Lake around 4:30 p.m., and met with family of victims before addressing the public.

“We’ve recovered the bodies of Doloris and Lucie and we all knew we were going to do everything we could to return them to their families where they belong,” he said. “We owed that to the families. We owed that to all the people of Elliot Lake.”

“I conveyed to those families that they’ve been in the thoughts and prayers of Ontarians since this tragedy struck.”

McGuinty praised the efforts of rescuers, and the Elliot Lake community, saying, “Ontarians marvel at your resilience and your ability to pull together in the face of an incredible challenge.” 

He also vowed to review emergency rescue procedures. The initial rescue efforts at the mall were halted due to fears that the structure was unsafe. That led to heavy criticism, with the premier eventually stepping in and urging a return to action.

“We need to carefully review how we responded to this tragedy. My undertaking to you and all Ontarians is that we will learn any lessons there are to be found here.

“We are all in this together and we are going to move forward together.”

Residents are calling for accountability.

“We just want answers,” said Catherine Timleck-Shaw. “We want someone to come out and actually say, ‘I’m sorry.’ That would mean a lot.”

Patrick Schumph, 59, believes the deaths were preventable.

“I hope this all comes to light,” he said. “There’s neglect here. What we discovered from this all is we got very lucky only two persons died; two too many.”

Earlier, Bill Neadles of Toronto’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team said the second victim was found around 1 p.m. The first victim was pulled from the rubble at the mall around 9:30 a.m.

Neadles said he doesn’t believe there are any other victims inside the building. OPP Insp. Percy Jollymore says 12 people remain unaccounted for, but only two names have “consistently remained outstanding.”

After the bodies were recovered, Neadles said crews would focus their attention on sifting through a pile of rubble about 1.5 metres high and 12 metres long.

That effort was expected to take about two hours, “to ensure that we are in fact correct in my assumption that there’s only the two victims within that complex,” Neadles said.

“I know it’s very unfortunate what’s happened but it’s a very big miracle that it wasn’t so much more devastating,” Neadles said.

There were 26 people in the mall’s food court when the collapse happened on Saturday afternoon, he said. More than 20 people were hurt — none seriously.

“I had the opportunity to review the security film and it is a miracle,” Neadles said. “There were people who had just left the lottery terminal three seconds [before the collapse.]”

Below is a Twitter feed following the hashtag, #ElliotLake.

On Monday, officials said a sign of life — a tapping noise — was detected in the mall.

Elliot Lake Mayor Rick Hamilton expressed his condolences after the remains of the first victim were removed Wednesday.

“With heavy hearts we offer our condolences to the families of the person who has been removed today. It’s indeed been a tragic time for the citizens of Elliot Lake,” he said.

Messages of condolence have also been posted on a Facebook group called Elliot Lake’s Roof Support Group.

OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis addressed criticism about the effort and Monday’s setback, when the rescue was briefly called off.

“They’re doing all they can. This isn’t something we normally deal with. We’re a police department,” he said. “Sometimes the best just isn’t good enough.”

“There’s going to be a full investigation,” he said later.

Read full coverage of the Elliot Lake rescue here.

Crews made significant progress overnight in clearing debris and stabilizing the situation inside the building.

People camped outside the mall on Tuesday night and Wednesday, waiting for any updates on the risky rescue operation.

Ontario’s Commissioner of Community Safety Dan Hefkey said crews using a specialized crane and other heavy machinery managed to remove an escalator that was damaged during the collapse. Because that structure was so unstable, engineers determined crews couldn’t go inside the mall until that escalator was removed.

Hefkey noted the removal of the escalator didn’t cause any more debris to fall inside the collapsed building and the operation was conducted with “surgical precision.”

A GTA company, Priestly Demolition Inc., assisted in the rescue effort and has provided an articulated, mechanical arm with a 45-metre reach to remove parts of the mall.

“This was not a demolition. This was picking out the pieces,” Hefkey said.

Crews managed to clear a path in an area said to be 10 metres by 25 metres. Hefkey said robots, equipped with cameras and sound equipment used in mining disasters went into the mall and helped determine the size of the area that was cleared and confirmed no debris had fallen.

The cleared pathway helped rescuers reach the victims.

Canine units were sent in after structural and civil engineers assessed the situation.

Rescue crews, including HUSAR, were forced to halt their efforts shortly after 5 p.m. Monday after engineers declared the site was too dangerous. The premier directed the search and rescue effort to continue in a new direction late Monday — by dismantling the building from the outside in.

“I thought it was important that we exercise every option, explore every possibility,” McGuinty said Tuesday. “I’m sure if that was your mom or your daughter or your brother, if somebody came to you and said, ‘how far should we push,’ I think we’d all say we need to go as far as we possibly can to rescue these individuals.”

McGuinty, who dodged questions Tuesday regarding the speed of the response and said the time for inquiry will come later, said Wednesday a review of the events would be made in the coming days.

On Wednesday, the OPP’s Lewis insisted the HUSAR team didn’t call off the rescue, but paused to reassess the situation.

“I assure you there was never any intention of that HUSAR team to leave this community without finishing this job,” he said.

Rejean Aylwin is among those affected by the collapse. The former miner believes his daughter Lucie Aylwin was inside and on Monday said “it doesn’t make sense” to give up before she and any others are found.

With files from The Canadian Press