Toronto tunnel builder surfaces, story stays strange

Elton McDonald (Facebook)

The mystery of Toronto’s infamous tunnel has mostly evaporated, to be replaced by just plain weirdness.

Earlier this week, Toronto cops clarified the bizarre bunker discovered near an upcoming Pan Am Games venue was not a smuggler’s den or terrorist hideout, but just a “man cave.” There was no nefarious intent, they said, so no criminal charges.

They wouldn’t identify the builders, but now one has come forward to take credit.

Elton McDonald, a 22-year-old construction worker told the Toronto Sun that building the underground cave was “something I always wanted to do,” suggesting that he’s in dire need of new hobbies or some better outlet for his skills and energy.

McDonald told the Sun he started building the tunnel more than two years ago and that it took five months to complete with help from a couple friends. He added he had planned to expand it to include a couple rooms and was disappointed the police had filled it in with dirt after they discovered it.

One of the most puzzling aspects of the story was the utter lack of punishment for someone excavating and building on public property without permission. Police said “there’s nothing illegal about digging a hole,” and the landowner didn’t press any charges, possibly because two Toronto agencies couldn’t decide who held jurisdiction.

One of those bodies, the quick-on-the-draw Toronto Region Conservation Authority, announced Friday that it's now starting its own investigation, with a spokesman saying "we do not wish to be punitive." He adds that the agency is focused on restoring the land and that it’d like to "negotiate a settlement."

However, we’ve now learned that McDonald faced some slight punishment in the form of an $800 fine and the loss of his equipment, which he borrowed from his very understanding boss.

That same boss actually posted bail for McDonald when he was arrested on gun charges back in 2011. The charges were eventually dropped.

McDonald apparently planned to sell his story to the media to cover the cost of his fines, which seems like a wild overestimation of how compelling a story it is: guy wants to dig weird cave, guy digs weird cave. The end.

After the “man-cave” revelation, police stressed that the lack of charges shouldn’t be seen as some tacit encouragement for other aspiring bunker-builders. However, even McDonald himself hasn’t been deterred from trying again.

“But I will build it next time when I have my own property,” he told the Sun.

And funnily enough, that’s when he could get into real legal trouble. Building without a permit can have a steep price tag or breaking ground before checking with city authorities can leave you liable for damages to city infrastructure like buried cables or pipes.

Also, a 22-year-old in a town as pricey as Toronto likely won’t have property of his own for a long while. How long can he resist his digging desires?

There may be more tunnel trouble on the horizon.

 

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