Human error cited in Cleveland Dam incident that left one dead, one still missing

Click to play video: 'Metro Vancouver says human error caused dam disaster'
Metro Vancouver says human error caused dam disaster
Metro Vancouver says human error caused dam disaster – Oct 8, 2020

Human error was responsible for the opening of the spillway gate at North Vancouver’s Cleveland Dam last week that sent torrents of water down the Capilano River, leaving one dead and another still missing.

In a statement Thursday, the Metro Vancouver regional district said the review into what happened continues, but it appears the “clearest contributing factor was human error related to programming of the control system for the spillway gate.”

The gate released a rush of water into the Capilano River, sweeping away several people who’d been on the banks.

The body of Ryan Nickerson was recovered in the aftermath of the flash flood, his 27-year-old son, Hugh, has not yet been found.

Click to play video: 'Concerns over no warning system on Cleveland Dam'
Concerns over no warning system on Cleveland Dam

Read more: Father and son who were swept into the river when Cleveland Dam opened are identified

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To make sure this doesn’t happen again, Metro Vancouver said it is looking at implementing a better public warning system and increasing the monitoring downstream of the dam.

Staff will also bring in experts to assess practices and procedures and look at ways to improve operations and maintenance.

Officials confirmed Friday there was no “public-facing” alarm that could have warned people about the unplanned release of the large volume of water.

“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,” the statement said.

Click to play video: 'Cleveland Dam flood victims identified'
Cleveland Dam flood victims identified

“Metro Vancouver has not experienced a similar unintended release of water in almost two decades,” commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny said. “We are entirely compliant with all related WorkSafeBC orders and requirements.”

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West Vancouver councillor Craig Cameron said what happened is a tragedy all the way around.

“Human error is human error.” He said. “It happens and we need to design better systems obviously because what was in place wasn’t designed to stop one person from making an error if it was one person.”

Metro Vancouver conducts dam safety reviews every seven years, with the most recent one completed in 2016. Earlier this year, a formal public safety assessment of the Cleveland Dam was completed.

-with files from Janet Brown

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