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Capilano River drowning result of 'human error' at Cleveland Dam

Last Updated Oct 8, 2020 at 11:13 am PDT


The Metro Vancouver Regional District says "human error" led to the opening of the spill gate at the Cleveland Dam

One man drowned and another person is still unaccounted for when a rush of water flooded the river Oct. 1

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The “clearest contributing factor” that led to a drowning on the Capilano River on Oct. 1 was “human error related to programming of the control system for the spillway gate” at the Cleveland Dam, according to the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

The release last Thursday sent a surge of water down the river, killing one person. Another person is still unaccounted for and presumed dead.

“Metro Vancouver takes responsibility for this mistake and our deepest sympathies go out to those affected by the tragic loss of life,” Metro Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny said in a release Thursday.

The person who remains missing has been identified by NEWS 1130 as the son of the man who drowned.

Four others who went into the water on Thursday were rescued or swam to safety.

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At the time, Dobrovolny said an investigation into what happened was underway.

Dobrovolny said Friday the rapid change in water flow from the dam wasn’t expected when crews were doing routine maintenance. He called it a catastrophic event.

The dam has never been equipped with sirens or alarms to warn the public of danger, Dobrovolny added last week.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District said new “system enhancements” are being implemented. “Exploring the viability” of putting an “improved public warning system” in place, as well as increasing monitoring downstream of the Cleveland Dam, are also in the works.

Expert advisors have also been called in to review current procedures to provide an independent review to “further strengthen its already robust operations and maintenance systems.”

The dam’s spillway gate will remain in the lowered position throughout the winter, Metro Vancouver said.

“Following technical recommendations by experts, Metro Vancouver upgraded the Cleveland Dam spillway gate from a mechanical to fully automated control system in 2002 and there have been subsequent upgrades. Metro Vancouver has not experienced a similar unintended release of water in almost two decades,” Dobrovolny said on Thursday, adding operations are WorkSafeBC compliant.