1 dead, 4 survive after flood of water suddenly escapes dam in North Vancouver

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B.C. Emergency Health Services says people were caught up in the Capilano River after the accidental opening of the Cleveland Dam on Thursday. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press))
B.C. Emergency Health Services says people were caught up in the Capilano River after the accidental opening of the Cleveland Dam on Thursday. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press))

One person has died and four others were caught in a torrent of water Thursday after a dam on the Capilano River in North Vancouver opened unexpectedly during maintenance.

Jerry Dobrovolny, the commissioner of Metro Vancouver, says work was being done on the Cleveland Dam shortly before 2 p.m. when the spillway gate — which controls the water's flow — opened and released a large volume of water into the river.

When the water surged down the river, it hit a popular fishing spot where a number of anglers were fishing.

Two people were able to swim to shore, according to B.C Emergency Health Services.

Another two were trapped on a sandbar and brought ashore by swift water rescue technicians, said District of North Vancouver Fire Rescue Services.

The district said it received multiple reports of people trapped along the Capilano River and under the Highway 1 overpass.

"At the time, there was extreme, fast-moving water," Assistant Fire Chief David Dales said. "The water levels stabilized somewhat after we did our rescue."

The two people rescued are in stable condition and no one was taken to hospital, BCEHS said.

DNV Fire Rescue Services
DNV Fire Rescue Services

North Vancouver RCMP said they wouldn't release the victim's name Thursday afternoon as they notified next of kin.

"It's a very unfortunate and sad occasion," Sgt. Peter DeVries said. "Our hearts and thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends."

DeVries said officers and rescue crews were searching the river "out of an abundance of caution" to make sure there were no other victims.

RCMP have handed over the investigation to the B.C. Coroners Service, which confirmed it was investigating the death of one person.

Dobrovolny said Metro Vancouver was able to resolve the problem with the spillway Thursday afternoon.

"We are conducting a full investigation into the event," he said.

According to a Metro Vancouver Capilano River flow graph, water levels sharply rose by 3.58 meters — almost 12 feet — between 1:15 p.m. and 2 p.m PT.

Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver

District of North Vancouver Fire Rescue Services asked the public in a tweet to always take caution near the water.