Family of man who died canoeing sue, blaming dangerous dam

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (AP) – The family of a man who drowned on a canoe trip is suing two state agencies, alleging a dangerous dam was to blame.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Caleb Gage, of Ballwin, was 32 last May when his boat capsized near the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield. His friend survived.

The suit, filed on behalf of his parents and young daughter, faults the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Both state departments are tasked with maintaining the Centaur Chute, a waterway that branches off the Missouri River along the Howell Island Conservation Area.

The suit said the low-head dam near where he capsized was in disrepair and the state failed to remove access to the chute or warn boaters of the unsafe conditions.

Low-head dams are known as “drowning machines” because they spawn powerful hydraulics that tend to catch objects, or people, that go over them. It can be a long time before whatever is caught works its way free.

Representatives from both state agencies declined to comment on the allegations in the pending litigation.

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