Two employees of the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission are missing after a crane accident occurred on Wednesday, April 29 at Amistad Dam.
According to a press release from IBWC, the workers were performing routine maintenance, pressure washing gate #2 on the downstream side, when they fell into the water.
The cause of the accident has not yet been determined, but initial reports indicate that a crane at the top of the dam was being used to lower to workers in a basket when the crane tipped, causing the basket to fall into the water. Water is estimated to be 25 to 30 feet deep in that area, and initial efforts by swimmers to reach the basket were unsuccessful. Because of ongoing safety concerns related to the crane, divers have not been able to enter the water to reach the basket.
“The personnel and families affected by this tragic accident are in our prayers,” said U.S. Commissioner Edward Drusina. “We will ensure that a thorough investigation is undertaken.” Personnel from the IBWC headquarters in El Paso, Texas, have been dispatched to investigate the accident, and all crane operations have been suspended.
Amistad Dam is an international dam across the Rio Grande River at Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico. It impounds water for two powerhouses, each with a capacity of 66 MW, one in the U.S. and one in Mexico.
IBWC is responsible for applying the boundary and water treaties between the U.S. and Mexico, which includes operating and maintaining Amistad Dam.
The Amistad Dam Road at the U.S. Port of Entry near Del Rio had been scheduled to reopen on May 1. It had been closed since Feb. 26 due to heavy equipment blocking the roadway while geological drilling and testing on the dam’s earthen embankment were under way. The reopening of the road has now been postponed, although IBWC says the accident does not pose a threat to the structural integrity of the dam and there is no risk to the general public.
In 2012, HydroWorld.com reported that emergency repairs were performed at the facility, where Penstock 4 was damaged and jammed, allowing about 60 cubic meters per second of water to escape in an uncontrolled release.