|Rescue workers stand in attention as a second body is being recovered at the scene of the Algo Mall roof collapse in Elliot Lake, Ontario, June 27, 2012. REUTERS/Kenneth Armstrong
ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. -- A Toronto businessman hasn't shown his face in this small northern Ontario city since last weekend when the roof of the poorly-built shopping centre he owns collapsed killing two women.
It seems Bob Nazarian may be concerned for his safety, so he instead asked his lawyer to stop by what's left of the mall Thursday to offer condolences to the victims' families.
"It's been a difficult week for all involved," Antoine-Rene Fabris said.
He said his client had planned to visit the scene but changed his mind because the coroner's investigation is still ongoing and the mall has not yet been released to Nazarian.
"...unfortunately there wasn't much purpose for him to be here today," Fabris said.
Those words didn't sit well with citizens.
And Fabris was suddenly bombarded with questions about why Nazarian chose not to stop by and offer his condolences personally.
Nazarian's attorney pointed out his client "issued a press release" in the wake of the collapse and he visited the scene Sunday, the day after the deadly cave-in.
"They have received death threats," he said, referring to Nazarian's family. "I can't go any further."
Nazarian has also received notice of a class-action lawsuit, Fabris said, unable to offer any details because it is "not a public document yet."
It's been widely reported that the mall had long-standing problems that began soon after it's construction in the early 80s.
Many residents have said the building leaked like a sieve and "everyone" in town knew it was a disaster waiting to happen.
Some citizens have claimed buckets were often left out in the mall to catch the water leaking from the ceiling. And there has even been some suggestion of "pool noodles" being used to plug holes in walls.
Fabris said people may be mistaken about the pool noodles and he explained his client has spent close to a million dollars fixing the shopping centre since purchasing it in 2005.
He claims repairs were all done properly and that's why the mall was deemed safe by numerous Ministry of Labour inspectors in recent years.
Unlike his client, a native of Iran who only operates a business in Elliot Lake, Fabris was "born and raised" in the city.
And he knew the deceased women -- Lucie Aylwin, 37, who was working in a lotto booth, and Doloris Perizzolo, a senior who had just purchased lottery tickets.
"My family was in the mall when it collapsed," Fabris said. "If I had thought that there was any danger, I certainly would not have put my family in harm's way."
Resident Valerie Clarke blasted the lawyer for downplaying the condition of the mall.
The senior claimed city officials allowed people to put their lives on the line every time they went shopping and she wonders how they "sleep at night."
"We all had bets on when this mall was going to fall down," Clarke said. "We were hoping it would be at night time, or some time when nobody would get hurt."
Clarke was among the many residents who kept vigil at the site day and night, hoping for a miracle.
"Where were you? I didn't see you out here," she asked Fabris during a heated exchange.
"Madam, I feel your grief. I'm a member of this community as well," the attorney said.
"When all of this media circus leaves in the next week, what's left? It's the Elliot Lakers," Fabris said. "And I have to work to re-build that."
"Do not point your finger at me please," he said sternly.