District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services members were back on the Capilano River Saturday to rescue seven anglers who became trapped on a sandbar as water levels rose around them.
Around 9 a.m., a passerby saw what they believed to be a person in distress and called 911. When assistant fire chief David Dales arrived, the anglers indicated they were fine and didn’t need a rescue. Knowing the water levels were bound to rise, Dales checked back on them later.
“Again, they communicated that the fishing was good, and they weren't going anywhere,” he said. “I explained to them it was extremely dangerous.”
By 2 p.m., the anglers told Dales they were going to cross the Capilano on foot.
“The first guy started to cross and he immediately got knocked under water. Right in full view of us, he basically almost drowned,” Dales said.
Luckily, the current pushed the man onto some debris at the river’s edge and rescuers were able to get him topside again.
The crew’s swiftwater rescue team set up a rescue line, which the remaining anglers could tether to and make their way across.
“The water now had risen to about five and a half feet,” Dales said. “A couple of the shorter fishermen almost were submerged. But we put life jackets on them and we secured them and we coached them and we brought them back one by one.”
The incident happened just days after Metro Vancouver installed digital signs at the entrance to the park, warning that the dam’s spillway is now open and that fall and winter rains can cause the river level change rapidly.
Dales said anyone planning to be near a river needs to wear a PFD and have a plan in place to quickly get to higher ground when the water rises.
“Our rivers are fed by other smaller rivers and creeks. Even though it's nice and sunny where you you are, it could be raining 40 millimetres an hour up river and that water level could change dramatically without you even knowing it if you're focused on fishing,” he said.
Metro Vancouver continues to investigate the Oct. 1 disaster at the Cleveland Dam that left one man dead and his son missing.