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Diver braves frigid Red River to unplug drain

THE next time you balk at taking a frigid May long weekend dip, be thankful you don’t work for Dominion Divers.

On Tuesday night, a diver with the Winnipeg firm spent an hour below the surface of the fast-moving, frigid Red River to allow the city of Winnipeg to unplug a blocked drain that contributed to overland flooding in south Charleswood and the Fort Whyte Area.

After complaints of overland flooding that just wouldn’t recede, the city asked Dominion Divers to deploy a team to the outflow of the Lot 16 Drain, which runs north of Bishop Grandin Boulevard through Fort Garry before spilling into the Red River.

Debris in the river had prevented a grate on the drain from opening, causing flooding that washed out a portion of both Loudon Road and McCreary Road, Charleswood Coun. Bill Clement said Wednesday.

A diver in a protective helmet and drysuit was lowered into the Red River twice: first to check out the situation underwater and then to attach a hook and chain to the grate, said Dominion Divers president Garth Hiebert.

A tow truck then removed the grate, which will be replaced once water levels recede on the Red. Overland flooding has eased in the affected area since the operation, Clement said.

In these situations, divers are tethered to the surface at all times and in audio contact with other team members, Hiebert explained.

“When we do a job like this, we do a hazard check first,” he said. “We don’t go in if it presents a danger.”

Dominion Divers went into the river to perform similar operations several times during the 1997 flood, and also dove into the flooded basements of private dwellings, he added.

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