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Crews search for missing person after dam opened during maintenance, flooding Capilano River

Click to play video 'One person killed after sudden water release from North Vancouver dam into Capilano River' One person killed after sudden water release from North Vancouver dam into Capilano River
One person has been killed after several people were swept away when the gates of North Vancouver's Cleveland Dam were suddenly opened. Aaron McArthur reports – Oct 2, 2020

Crews are searching for a man swept up in the Capilano River Thursday afternoon in North Vancouver.

Sources have told Global News the missing person may by the son of the man who died Thursday after the river flooded when the Cleveland Dam was opened for maintenance.

BC Emergency Health Services said it was called at 1:49 p.m. following reports of people being caught up in fast-moving water.

Metro Vancouver officials confirmed there was an unscheduled release of water through the dam.

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Metro Vancouver CEO Jerry Dobrovolny said the dam’s spillway released a large volume of water during a maintenance operation.

“There’s no concern with the safety of the dam itself, it was not a function of a breach of a problem with the dam. It was the gate, which controls the water flow, released a large flow of water, and it happened here when we were doing maintenance,” he said.

“We’re doing a full investigation of what happened.”

Click to play video 'Video shows fast-moving water flowing through North Vancouver’s Cleveland Dam' Video shows fast-moving water flowing through North Vancouver’s Cleveland Dam
Video shows fast-moving water flowing through North Vancouver’s Cleveland Dam – Oct 1, 2020

North Vancouver RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Peter DeVries said five people were pulled into the river.

Four were rescued or managed to escape, while one man died.

“There were a number of anglers who were fishing beside the river at the time. It’s a very unfortunate and sad occasion,” he said.

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People who were fishing in the river reported hearing the water coming through the canyon like a freight train, with no warning.

Daniel Yang told Global News he was fishing in the river with his father and a friend on Thursday morning when his friend starting screaming at him to get his attention.

“I saw the water was rising up very fast,” he said.

Daniel Yang stares up a cliff face as he looks for a way to escape rising water levels on the Capilano River on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020.
Daniel Yang stares up a cliff face as he looks for a way to escape rising water levels on the Capilano River on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. Daniel Yang

Yang and his father saw they were cut off from the path they’d taken to enter the canyon, and found themselves trapped on a shrinking sand bar.

“And there was nothing we could do. The only way to save us, because of the water rising at a really rapid rate, [was] to climb.”

The two men used trees as handholds to pull themselves up what Yang described as a vertical cliff about 15 metres (50 feet) high.

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“If we [were] not being careful, if we fell from the cliff, we would have died.”

A Metro Vancouver graphic shows a large surge of water in the Capilano River at 2 p.m. on Oct. 1.
A Metro Vancouver graphic shows a large surge of water in the Capilano River at 2 p.m. on Oct. 1. Metro Vancouver

The friend was able to get himself to safety on his own.

No alarm or notification preceded the surge of water, he added, and if someone opened the dam without warning, they should be held accountable.

Click to play video 'Safety warning for Capilano River anglers' Safety warning for Capilano River anglers
Safety warning for Capilano River anglers – Oct 29, 2019

BC Emergency Health Services said two people were able to return to shore on their own and two others were in stable condition, officials said. No one was transported to hospital.

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Police and search and rescue crews remained on scene into Thursday evening to ensure there were no other people missing in the river.

Search crews were seen at the river on Friday morning.

The BC Coroners Service is also investigating.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct a misquote. Metro Vancouver CEO Jerry Dobrovolny said “there’s no concern with the safety of the dam itself.”