Rubble is seen at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario June 27, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/NATHAN DENETTE
John Green, managing director of Ottawa-based P.R.E.P. International, has contributed or led rescue efforts in Japan, Haiti and Ground Zero following 911.
He got a call from a resident of Elliott Lake on June 23 -- 35 minutes after the collapse -- asking him to bring a team to help with the rescue effort. Instead of simply heading out, he decided to try and contact the local fire department and the Ontario Provincial Police. He left several messages and eventually heard back from the OPP on Monday morning.
"We had called them about eight or nine times Monday morning," he said. "We called everybody we could."
Around 11 a.m., an officer told them there was no harm in heading out. Green and his crew arrived in Elliott Lake at 7 p.m. and were told, "we've been waiting for you."
But, two hours earlier, labour ministry officials had called off the rescue operation.
Green was told to leave.
Regardless, he waited around and watched as the crowd grew more and more agitated. From his experience, and in examining the collapse from behind the barricade, Green described the situation as "a typical building rescue."
He claims to have done rescue efforts at 1,100 buildings -- upwards of 30 of those, similar to the one in Elliott Lake.
"This is the worst type," he said.
He believes he could have helped with the rescue and that officials spent more effort analyzing the situation when they should have been taking action.
"It's disappointing," he said. "You either manage the risk or let the risk manage you. They let the risk manage this project."
Green said if he had it to do over again, he wouldn't have sought permission, he would have just gone in.
"I'll never do that again," he said.