Algo Centre victim had been unhappy about mall’s safety, fiancé says

ELLIOT LAKE — The Globe and Mail

Gary Gendron speaks to the media gathered outside the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on Thursday. His fiancée, Lucie Aylwin, died in the roof collapse along with another woman. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

One Saturday every month, Lucie Aylwin sold tickets in the Algo Centre’s lottery booth. It wasn’t her regular job: She took on the extra shifts to save up for her wedding.

Gary Gendron says that after watching his fiancée’s body pulled from the rubble of the ruined mall, he is convinced Ms. Aylwin’s death was preventable. Ms. Aylwin had concerns about the mall’s structure well before its collapse: The fire alarm would go off for no reason in the middle of the afternoon, Mr. Gendron said.

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“There was nothing safe there at all,” he said. “Myself, I think that mall should have been closed a long time ago.”

Mr. Gendron proposed to Ms. Aylwin last October at the Autumn Colours Race in Peterborough, Ont., in front of more than 5,000 people.

“I made a sign that said, ‘Lucie, will you marry me?’ I stopped at corner No. 1, rolled down my window, and pulled out the sign,” he said. “I got three million texts that said, “Yes, yes, yes, yes.’ ”

Mr. Gendron described his fiancée as hardworking, big-hearted and a well-known fixture in Elliot Lake. “She was willing to do anything you could imagine. If she wasn’t capable of doing it, she would find a way.”

As Mr. Gendron waited for days outside the wreckage of the mall, he watched workers use the kind of machinery he sells for a living as they dug out the massive slabs of concrete blocking rescuers from reaching Ms. Aylwin’s body. He’s familiar with Komatsu equipment such as the 90-tonne mechanical arm used to shift the rubble on Wednesday. “That’s from one of our customers in Toronto.”

Mr. Gendron wept as he described learning the news that his fiancée and Doloris Perizzolo had been found dead on Wednesday afternoon, 84 hours after the mall’s roof caved in.

“We were told they did not suffer, they were at peace.”

Mr. Gendron saw Ms. Aylwin for the last time on Saturday morning. The couple ate breakfast together and made plans to meet up after Ms. Aylwin finished work. As Mr. Gendron put the couple’s shar pei in the back of his truck and got ready to leave, his fiancée called him over to say goodbye.

“She gave me another big hug and a kiss and said, ‘I’ll see you at 6:30.’ ”