British Columbia

Searchers look for missing man after Cleveland Dam tragedy, RCMP say

RCMP say they're searching for a missing man believed to have been caught in a deadly torrent of water after a dam in North Vancouver unexpectedly opened during maintenance. 

1 person died following the accidental release of water from the dam on Thursday

The Capilano River in North Vancouver one day after the Cleveland Dam released an unexpected torrent of water. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

RCMP say they're searching for a missing man believed to have been caught in a deadly torrent of water after a dam in North Vancouver unexpectedly opened during maintenance. 

Work was being done on the Cleveland Dam shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday when the spillway gate, which controls the water's flow, opened and released a large volume of water into the Capilano River. 

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

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. 

RCMP said Friday a search is continuing for a man who was unaccounted for.

A helicopter joins in the search for a man missing in the Capilano River after the unexpected release of a torrent of water Thursday from the Cleveland Dam. (Greg Rasmussen/CBC)

North Shore Rescue completed a search up to the mouth of the river, working until dusk Thursday and resuming at first light Friday, and did not find additional victims, RCMP said.

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.

"It's sad. I really feel for people in this situation," said Sgt. Peter DeVries with the North Vancouver RCMP. 

"Words can't express how difficult it is when something so tragic happens."

Investigation underway

An investigation is now underway to determine a timeline of what happened, and whether human or system failures, or a combination of both, were responsible.

Jerry Dobrovolny, the commissioner of Metro Vancouver, which operates the dam, said a gate controlling the flow of water came down too quickly.

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.

People fish for salmon on the Capilano River in North Vancouver on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

It's also not known how long the gate was open or how much water poured down the river. 

There are no structural issues with the dam and it's safe to be in the area, Dobrovolny said.

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.

He said regular updates on the investigation will be provided as they become available before a final report is released.

With files from Tina Lovgreen, Bethany Lindsay and The Canadian Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?