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Constable outlines confusion over work stoppages

laura-kingAug. 28, 2013, Toronto - An OPP constable told the inquiry into the collapse of the Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake on Wednesday that there was considerable confusion over an apparent order by the Ministry of Labour to shut down the search for victims.

August 28, 2013
By Laura King

Aug. 28, 2013, Toronto – An OPP constable told the inquiry into the
collapse of the Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake on Wednesday that there
was considerable confusion over an apparent order by the Ministry of
Labour to shut down the search for victims.

Const. Steve Hulsman, who is part of the OPP’s specialized rescue team known as UCRT, said he knew from experience at an incident in Woodstock, Ont., in 2012 that the Ministry of Labour does not have the authority to stop a rescue operation.

Hulsman said Ministry of Labour inspectors were never very far away from the rescue operation and he was aware that they were observing the goings on.

Hulsman said HUSAR’s Chris Rowlands told the UCRT team on Monday, June 25, at suppertime to stop working because of a twisted I-beam that made the building unstable.

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“Initially, he came toward us with his hands in the air and expressed that we needed to stop,” Hulsman said. “When I questioned why he mentioned something about an I-beam being twisted.”

Hulsman said all UCRT and HUSAR members left the hot zone and the area where shoring work was being done, and he contacted OPP Sgt. Jamie Gillespie.

“I was looking to see if [Gillespie] had heard anything because normally we take directions from the operations or the safety [guys], and he advised that he had not heard any stoppages from his vantage point – the people he was standing with – and he told us we could go back in to work.”

Hulsman said his team took a water break and went back into the building to continue the search. About 15 minutes later, he said, Rowlands and a Ministry of Labour engineer again told crews to stop.

“We left through the north entrance again and sat down and had quick snack.
I informed Sgt. Gillespie and they were going to investigate what the stoppages were about.”

Hulsman said the work stoppages happened Monday evening, around the time that the SUV and the first concrete slab were removed from the collapsed mall.

Later Wednesday, Hulsman was again asked by commission counsel Mark Wallace about the work stoppage.

“When this information was given to you, you were one of a group of people who got this info at the same time.” Wallace said. “Within the group, did someone say to the person who was giving this info, ‘What’s with this, they can’t do that?’ ”

“That’s very much the case,” Hulsman said. “We wanted to continue. You’re very much right. We didn’t know what was going on. There were voiced opinions on why we were shut out and people were starting to get a little angry with the decision.”

“And,” said Wallace, “was there a challenge to the authority to make that order? Do you remember whether anybody said ‘The Ministry of Labour can’t do that – we’ve been through this at Woodstock.’ ”

“Yes,” Hulsman said.

Hulsman spent much of the day explaining the workings of the LifeLocator, a tool that was used in the search for victims Doloris Perizzolo and Luch Aylwin, and had picked up signs of breathing.

Wallace asked Hulsman if he would dispute the corner’s report – which has yet to be introduced as an exhibit – if it shows the victims died within 15 or 20 minutes after the collapse.

“No,” he said.


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