As a result of an investigation into the collapse of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake in June 2012 that killed two people, police have laid two counts of criminal negligence causing death and another count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm against professional engineer Robert Wood.
According to police records, Wood was involved in numerous inspections of the building. A judicial inquiry into the mall’s collapse uncovered information indicating that the roof had leaked almost from the beginning, and that many years of water and salt had left the steel support structure severely rusted. Despite this, Wood conducted an inspection and declared the centre structurally sound just before its collapse.
The inquiry revealed a 2011 conversation in which Wood warned a prospective buyer of the mall that the structure had to be fixed or the roof would cave in, and that it would cost $1.5 million to fix. They also found out that a year later, just before the collapse, he told the mall’s owner that the steel supports showed surface rusting, but were otherwise “structurally sound.” Wood’s final inspection report before the collapse, dated May 3, 2012, reported “no visual distress.” He later admitted to making changes to the final report later, at the request of the mall’s owner. Among the changes were the removal of a reference to “ongoing” leakage,” and the removal of several photos showing yellow tarps that were being used to collect water from the roof and a corroded steel beam.
By the time of the altered inspection report and the collapse, however, Wood had already lost his professional engineering licence. That happened in November 2011, after he admitted to misconduct that was unrelated to the mall collapse. He continued to practise, anyway, as a “graduate” engineer and owner of Sault Ste, Marie-based M.R. Wright, with restrictions on what he could do. The mall collapse effectively ended his 40-year career.
In April 2013, Wood was also charged under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act as a professional engineer, for offences relating to giving negligent advice. Under the OH&S Act, the Ministry of Labour is permitted to lay charges against a professional engineer in cases where, “as a result of his or her advice that is given or his or her certification required under this Act that is made negligently or incompetently, a worker is endangered.”