Alarm Failure Caused Family To Become Stranded In Okla. River

Wednesday, July 10th 2013, 9:42 pm
By: News 9

Alarms on a dam along the Oklahoma River are now working two days after nearly washing away a family with no warning.

News 9 is told the alarms are supposed to be tested weekly. Crews were out Wednesday morning replacing the broken part that caused the alarm not to work Monday. The city's director of public works says multiple systems are checked on the dam weekly.

There are three dams along the Oklahoma River; one each at May, Western and Eastern. All three are computer-controlled floodways.

"And so as we receive rains, the dams lower themselves to control flooding," said Eric Wenger, Director of Oklahoma City Public Works Department.

Strobe lights and sirens are supposed to sound when a dam is lowered. Wenger says Monday evening at the Eastern Avenue dam, the strobe lights did flash, but the alarm failed.

7/8/2013 Related Stories: Family Rescued After Being Stranded In Oklahoma River In OKC

"This is something that we would have hoped to have caught on a recent inspection, but obviously with the notification on Monday that they weren't working. We simply responded very quickly."

Wenger says it was a one-day repair, but not soon enough for a family nearly killed when the dam opened without notice.

"I was freaking out," said witness, Deborah Hypes. "I'm the one that had to have the truck driver call 911. I was like telling the police, the officers, what happened."

"It wasn't too bad until the water started running," said Larry Ely.  

Fortunately Ely, out fishing with his grandkids, got out of the river with only a few scrapes and bruises. 

"Looks like I'm not going to come fishing down here again," said Ely. "Over there would be a better spot."

Fishing along the river's dams is not restricted, but city officials still urge those who do to always use good judgment.