VANCOUVER — The CEO of a dam operator says there were no alarms to warn a group of people fishing on the banks of the Capilano River in North Vancouver that a deadly torrent of water was heading their way on Thursday.
Jerry Dobrovolny of Metro Vancouver said a gate controlling the flow of water came down too quickly and released a large volume of water while maintenance work was being done at the Cleveland Dam.
The gate is normally lowered mechanically or automatically when the water level of a lake needs to be controlled, but it's not known how it was being operated when the water gushed out, he said Friday.
One person was killed among a group of about five anglers. The RCMP said Friday a search is continuing for a man who was unaccounted for.
The RCMP said North Shore Rescue have completed a search up to the mouth of the river and did not find additional victims.
Police vessels have been searching the waters beyond the mouth of Capilano River and an RCMP underwater recovery team was also sent to the area.
The Mounties said in a statement Thursday that at least five people were swept into the water and four were rescued or able to reach the shore. The fifth person was pulled from the water in medical distress and he later died, police said.
Dobrovolny said he's not aware of any discussions to install a warning alarm at the site where the "catastrophic" incident occurred.
An investigation is underway to determine a timeline of what happened and whether human or system failures, or a combination of both, were responsible.
"When you see a major failure like this it's generally that there was a breakdown on both sides of that equation," he said, adding staff will be interviewed through the weekend to establish what triggered the gate to open unexpectedly despite safeguards.
"I just want to stress clearly that there is no safety concern going forward. The gate is locked and the dam is intact," Dobrovolny said.
"We've had staff on the ground supporting search and rescue efforts and we'll continue to work with them and all other agencies. We're co-operating fully and completely and we share the same goal, which is to understand exactly what happened and to prevent it from happening again."
It's not known how long the gate was open or how much water poured down the river, he said, adding regular updates on the investigation will be provided as they become available before a final report is released.
Metro Vancouver is working with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the provincial Environment Ministry to determine any impact on salmon, Dovrovolny said, adding minimal flows are being maintained for the fish.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2020.
The Canadian Press