Back in mid-October we published a chronicle of deaths and serious injuries that have occurred at or around Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach and Point Loma over the last 10 to 11 years, from 2005 through 2015.
Now with this most recent death of a man visiting from the Mid-West who fell off the cliffs while viewing his mobile device, this year – 2015 – looks to be the worst in terms of deaths and injuries.
This tragic death made national and even international news. What didn’t make the news was how dangerous and deadly our beautiful cliffs can be.
Back in mid-October, we summarized the incidents and came up with an average of 3 deaths and serious injuries per year, from 2005 to the present. We found that 2015 was already one of the worst years of these incidents.
Here is our introduction to what we wrote in October:
The beautiful Sunset Cliffs that stretch from the residential southern portions of Ocean Beach to the lower reaches of the uninhabited sections of Point Loma are certainly a world-renown, indescribably gorgeous treasure of nature that line the land’s border with the Pacific.
At the right moment when the ocean earns its name and the Cliffs earn theirs, the beauty and serenity cannot be amply replicated by the pen – or keyboard.
Yet these same cliffs with their jagged rocks and crashing surf are also very unforgiving in their encounters with unwary humans, where death and distress accompany their collision with this abrupt edge between ocean and peninsula.
Here, again, is our chronicle for 2015 (before the most recent death):
- January 3, 2015 – Kyle Witkowski dies after driving off street; girlfriend seriously injured
Local Kyle Witkowski was the victim in a fatal car crash off Sunset Cliffs during the early hours of Saturday, January 3rd. Kyle was killed and the female passenger seriously injured when his Chevy Tahoe missed the turn at the end of Bacon Street and flew off the cliffs, going through the guard-rail and fence and landing upside down on the rocks below.
- January 15, 2015 – Surfer smashed on rocks
A surfer was rescued after being smashed against the jagged rocks of Sunset Cliffs. Rescuers say the man got into trouble when he tried to leave the surf, and was was hit repeatedly by sets of large waves that sent him crashing into the rocks at the foot of the cliff. Crews had to use a hoist to pull him to safety. Lifeguards say the surfer suffered cuts and bruises but was otherwise okay.
- February 2, 2015 – woman suffered major trauma after fall off cliffs
A woman suffered major trauma after she fell from a ledge at Sunset Cliffs at night. The 43-year-old female lost consciousness and suffered neck and back injuries. A helicopter lowered water personnel 30 to 40 feet down to help rescue the woman. They put her on a backboard and extracted her, then taken to a hospital. She suffered major trauma but was able to talk to first responders, though she did not remember how she had fallen from the cliffs. s
- February 15, 2015 – Surfer rescued after fall on rocks; 2nd person also rescued
One rescue involved a surfer who fell onto some rocks at Sunset Cliffs. 2 people were rescued.
- ~May 24, 2015 – Woman rescued after serious injuries in fall
A woman was injured when she fell 65 feet down a cliff at Sunset Cliffs in the area of Hill Street and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. The 50 year old woman was airlifted to a hospital, having suffered serious head, neck and back injuries, but was conscious and talking when crews came to her rescue, according to reports from the scene.
- July 12, 2015 – Teen girl injured leg after slip at Sunset Cliffs
A teenage girl was injured when she slipped on the reef at Sunset Cliffs. San Diego Lifeguards pulled the girl, 15, from the water and up the stairs onto Ladera Street near Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. She suffered a leg injury and was taken to UCSD Hospital for further evaluation.
- August 7, 2015 – Man rescued after jumping off Sunset Cliffs.
Lifeguards were called out to Sunset Cliffs to rescue a man who was injured while cliff diving. A man landed facedown in the water after leaping from the cliffs and the jump knocked him unconscious. Bystanders rushed to pull him out of the ocean. By the time rescuers arrived, the man was alert and talking. Lifeguards, who strapped the patient in a stretcher, had to use a crane to lift him from the rocks. He was taken to the hospital for unknown injuries.
- August 11, 2015 – Intoxicated man rescued after 80 foot fall off Sunset Cliffs
A man, 31, was intoxicated and ignored several “Danger Stay Back” barriers along the cliff when he fell at 4400 Ladera Street. Several people found him unconscious at the bottom of the cliff, and he was severely bleeding from a serious head injury suffered in the fall. San Diego Fire airlifted him to UCSD Medical Center. He was reportedly awake, but did not remember the fall or even his own name.
- August 30, 2015 – Missing swimmer’s body found near Santa Cruz Avenue
Brian Wilson, 23, went missing near Sunset Cliffs while swimming with a friend when he disappeared in the waters near Santa Cruz Avenue. His body was found in the area two days later.
- September 11, 2015 – Injured cliff jumper rescued
Lifeguards rescued an injured man after he jumped off a bluff into the ocean at Sunset Cliffs, a spot popular for cliff-jumping even though it is illegal. The jumper, who appeared to be in his 20s, had done a flip and hit the water face-first. Lifeguards secured him onto a backboard from a rocky outcropping below the 20-foot cliff, and hauled him up. The rescue took about half an hour, and he was taken to a trauma center by ambulance.