Sunset Cliffs Deaths and Injuries Dropped Below Average in 2019

by on December 30, 2019 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

The good news from 2019 is that deaths and serious injuries at Sunset Cliffs dropped below the average numbers.

According to our record and report keeping, there were only two deaths – tragic in themselves of course – and only one seriously injured person during 2019 at or below Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach and Point Loma.

The data used in the study the OB Rag has been conducting goes back to 2005 and has found there’s been an average of 5 deaths or serious injuries every year.

We have maintained this on-going chronicle as a public service project, to make people aware of the dangers of our beautiful Sunset Cliffs and of the rocks and waters below the cliffs. This is not an advocacy for more and more fencing – it’s an advocacy for more and more public education.

Here’s a chart showing the deaths and serious injuries for the years 2005 through 2018, last year. And it’s based on what information and data we have available to us, which is restricted to news and media reports, and occasionally coroner’s reports. Our records shows total of 24 deaths and 49 serious injuries during that period of 2005 through 2018.

According to public news reports from San Diego media, there were two deaths at the cliffs, a young 15-year-old boy from Sweetwater died on September 11 and the body of a 75-year-old man who had gone missing was found below the cliffs on November 21. And on October 6, a man was injured from a fall from the cliffs.

Here’s more details:

Sweetwater Teen Dies at Sunset Cliffs – Sept 11

A young, 15-year old boy from Sweetwater High School, Anthony Womack, died Wednesday, September 11 at Sunset Cliffs after being pulled from the ocean by lifeguards. He had been jumping with friends at the popular jump spot some call “The Arch” near Osprey Street along Sunset Cliffs, where the jump is at least twenty feet.

Rescuers responded after being called at 10 a.m. with a report of a teenager struggling in the water. Womack was finally found after lifeguards searched on a boat and with watercrafts for almost an hour. NBC7 reported: Lifeguards were seen forming a line in the water and combing the cove floor in search of the swimmer. “For us, the visibility was very poor, like six inches,” San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rich Stropky said. “Like chocolate milk, and there is a lot of debris in the water.” Lt. Stropky said an off-duty lifeguard helping with the search found the teen. When he was pulled to the surface approximately 47 minutes later he wasn’t breathing and had no pulse, Stropky said. Womack was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased.

75-Year Old man Dies – Nov. 21

In the morning of November 21, a 75-year-old man had been reported missing by his wife. She had told police that her husband had left their home around 5:40 a.m. and had not returned by 8:30 a.m. Tragically, his body was found floating in the water at Sunset Cliffs near the foot of Hill Street. Police called lifeguards at about 12:30 p.m. to report a person in the water off the 1000 block of Sunset Cliffs, and Lifeguards brought his body ashore using a crane. The couple live a few blocks from where the body was found. He as yet has not been identified.

Man Injured from Fall off Sunset Cliffs, Rescued With Crane – Oct. 6

A man who fell from Sunset Cliffs on Sunday evening, October 6, was rescued with a crane and taken to a hospital with possible major injuries. Reportedly, he was uncooperative when lifeguards worked to rescue him, police said. The man, suspected of being under the influence, fell around 7:30 p.m. near Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Monaco Street, officials said. Lifeguards located the man with help from a police helicopter but had to summon extra lifeguards when the man refused to cooperate with them, police said. He wouldn’t tell paramedics how far he had fallen, so they took him to a trauma facility as a precaution, officials said.

We need to make a cautionary note; we do not have access to lifeguard rescues and there have probably been many more rescues that we have cited, but we have cited what was in the public record.

We are not counting the following stories in our survey because the individuals rescued did not suffer injuries.

Two Men Rescued Trapped in Point Loma Cave After Boat Is Trapped – Sept. 6

Two men were rescued from a cave near Sunset Cliffs Friday morning after their fishing boat became trapped inside, authorities said. The two men were rescued from a cave near Sunset Cliffs Friday morning after their fishing boat became trapped inside, authorities said. The men were asleep inside a 26-foot-catamaran, which was on auto- pilot mode, as they returned from a fishing trip near Coronado Island when they woke up around midnight and realized the surf was pushing their boat into a cave, NBC7 reported. They were able to make a distress call, but it took crews around an hour to find the cave, which was near the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, the news station reported.  The U.S. Coast Guard responded, but found their vessel was to large to enter the cave and the two men were eventually rescued by San Diego lifeguards. No injuries were reported.

Pair of San Diego Seals Rescued – Jan. 10

A rescue incident occurred on  Jan. 10 about 10:45 a.m., when a pair of San Diego Seals – professional lacrosse players – jumped from The Arch at Sunset Cliffs into a high surf area and had to be rescued.  San Diego Fire Rescue spokesperson Monica Munoz said lifeguards were notified about two men in their 20s who’d jumped into the water at The Arch – a popular spot for cliff jumpers. “One was rescued from the water by lifeguards on a rescue craft and taken to OB,” Munoz said. “The other had climbed onto a cliff ledge. Because of high surf, lifeguards and firefighters performed a cliff rescue to get the second person.” Munoz said there were no injuries to either of the two men that required their hospitalization. “It is against San Diego Municipal Code to jump into the Pacific Ocean from a height greater than five feet because it’s dangerous,” said Munoz, noting, “Especially during high surf events, it is not recommended that people get into the water, unless they are swimming near a lifeguard and have a lot of experience as a swimmer.”

Tragic Story at Dog Beach – Man Drowns After Saving Dog(s) at Jetty – Jan. 9

We also didn’t count the following tragic story from Dog Beach that occurred on January 9, 2019.

On January 9, the San Diego Fire Department Dispatch Center received a request for help from the channel area at Dog Beach where a man had been swept into the water as he was trying to retrieve his dog from the river channel. Witnesses told lifeguards that he was found face down in the water a few minutes after he went in. “Lifeguards were able to pull him from the water using a rescue water craft,” Munoz said. “They brought him to the beach and started CPR.” The dog either came out of the water on its own or was brought out of the water by someone else, and was eventually taken to family members, noted Munoz. The Medical Examiner’s Office later identified the victim as Nevada resident Gregg Owens. He was admitted to UCSD Hospital’s intensive care unit where he was later pronounced dead. He was believed to be in his mid-50s to early 60s.  San Diego Community News Group

The man rescued off the OB Jetty by lifeguards Wednesday, identified as Gregg Owens, – visiting from Nevada – entered the rough ocean around 2pm to retrieve his dogs. He did save the dogs but he was carried back out by waves and slammed into the rocks of the jetty. Bystanders saw that he was face-down in the surf and being dragged out to sea by strong currents. When lifeguards on jet skis reached him, Owens was found face-down and unresponsive lodged into the rocks on the jetty, Lifeguards and paramedics performed CPR on him for about 10 minutes as he was rushed to the hospital.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

bodysurferbob December 30, 2019 at 1:51 pm

good news yes. you land-lubbers are finally getting the message – maybe. the cliffs are gorgeous yes but dangers lurk.


Stewie May 1, 2022 at 2:40 pm

Hucked a double backflip there yesterday, first time there.
There was a DJ and a slip n slide.
DJ was cool but tried to control the scene which I just ignored.
Double Back Flip first try F Yes!

I’m from NH. I dive a lot. This spot is very cool. I admit it is dangerous. It’s too shallow. Sure you can get away with never touching bottom and you can head-first dive if you know when you’re doing & read tide charts. But it IS shallow. Don’t let ppl tell you otherwise. If the tide is very high, it may be 20ft deep. That’s really not deep for cliff diving. Glad I showed up and showed up everyone there. Next time double front & double gainer.??


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