No Deaths at Sunset Cliffs in 2020 But Injuries Average in OB Rag 16-Year Survey

by on January 28, 2021 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

At least, according to the public news record, there were no deaths at Sunset Cliffs during 2020. There were 5 incidents where people were injured, however.

This is definitely good news from a year filled with bad news. Perhaps because of COVID, less people ventured into dangerous areas on or around the beautiful but treacherous cliffs. Which is unlikely, given all the reports and complaints about how people have jammed Sunset Cliffs these last months of the pandemic.

However, the rate of deaths and serious injuries at the cliffs for the year tracks with the average, according to the survey the OB Rag has conducted for years. Data collected for the study goes back to 2005. The OB Rag has found there’s been an average of 5 deaths or serious injuries every year.

In comparison with 2019, for instance, there were 2 tragic deaths, and only one seriously injured person at or below Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach and Point Loma. (See this  study the OB Rag )

Here is an up-to-date chart:

We say this each 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.

Another caveat: Our record of deaths and serious injuries for the years 2005 through 2020 are based on what information and data we have available to us, which is restricted to news and media reports, and occasionally coroner’s reports. We do not have access to City Lifeguard records. If we did, we believe the numbers would all be higher.

We also need to note that there are more rescues of people who were not injured – and we don’t count those; plus we only count incidents along the cliffs themselves; we don’t count anything that occurs at the OB Pier or along the beaches north.

Here are the details.

Rescues With Injuries

May 3, 2020 – Man Rescued After Fall Into Ocean While Watching bioluminescent tide

On May 3, a man who recently got out of quarantine from COVID-19 was rescued early Sunday after falling into the ocean at Sunset Cliffs. San Diego Fire-Rescue Department officials said the incident happened at about 12:30 a.m. The man reportedly was watching the bioluminescent tide when he got too close to the water and was hit by a wave and pulled out into the ocean.  The man, who has not been publicly identified, managed to swim to a rock under the cliffs where lifeguards rescued him with a paddleboard. He was hospitalized with some minor injuries.

May 12 – Woman Suffered Major Trauma in Fall of 30 Feet

San Diego lifeguards were busy at Sunset Cliffs on Tuesday, May 12, with two rescue operations. The first rescue with injuries was of a 23 year old woman who suffered major trauma when she fell 30 feet off the cliffs to the beach below. The SDFD helicopter was brought in to hoist her up to the bluff top and then she was transported to a local hospital.

May 24, 2020 – Man Fell 50 Feet at Sunset Cliffs

A man fell about 50 feet down a cliff at Sunset Cliffs early Sunday, May24 and had to be rescued by a firefighter helicopter crew. Police and firefighters went to the beach at Sunset Cliffs Boulevard near Guizot Street around midnight after someone called to report a man had fallen. Rescuers found a man in his mid-30s amid rocks and grass at the base of the hill. The man was alert and told firefighters he had hurt his back in the fall. Firefighters used a helicopter hoist to lift the man from the beach onto a stretcher, then took him to UC San Diego hospital for treatment.

Note this: the senior firefighter told the press that firefighters and lifeguards have responded to a spate of rescue calls at Sunset Cliffs in recent weeks and warned beach-goers to keep away from the cliff edges, especially at night.

July 3 – 2 Teens Rescue 2 Girls

Not all rescues are by our lifeguards. On July 3, two teens made a dramatic rescue of two young girls at Sunset Cliffs. That Friday evening two girls, perhaps aged 12 or 13, were standing close to the ocean, when a large set came in and just simply swept them off their feet and into the choppy water. “The older one hit her head probably down on the reef and had a pretty serious head injury in the water,” Lt. Andy Lerum with the San Diego Lifeguards told ABC10News.

Before lifeguards could respond, two teenage boys jumped into the water, swam to where the girls were and tried to keep their heads above water. Lifeguards later said that the teens were instrumental in saving the girls’ lives. One of their mothers gave one of the teen rescuers a huge bear hug in gratitude. The incident was witnessed by local photographer Jim Grant, who said:

“It was big surf. The girls could not swim or couldn’t swim very well, that’s for sure. And it just could’ve been a tragic event if those two guys didn’t happen to be here.”

Rescues Without Injuries – Not Counted in Survey

January 12, 2020 – Nude Man Clinging to Cliff Hoisted Up

A nude man was rescued  by first responders clinging to the side of Sunset Cliffs Sunday morning, Jan. 12. Around 10:40 am, San Diego Lifeguards received calls of a naked man clinging to the very sheer cliff near Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Guizot Street. A small crowd, as one can imagine, had gathered to observe the potentially dangerous situation. The man, unidentified as of yet, was gripping the cliff – where there isn’t much to hold on to – about 20 feet from the bottom. About an hour later, he was hoisted up by harness and “detained” for a “mental state evaluation” at a local hospital. He hadn’t luckily sustained any injuries outside scratches. It turned out he was intoxicated and nude by choice even though the beach nearby is not a clothing-optional beach.

May 12, 2 LA Men Rescued by Jetski

San Diego lifeguards were busy at Sunset Cliffs on Tuesday, May 12, with two rescue operations. The second rescue was of two young men from Los Angeles, who got caught in a rip current at Sunset Cliffs and had to be rescued by a lifeguard jetski.

Sat. June 13, Police Officer Rescues Suicidal Father & 2-Year Old Twins After Father Drove Car Off Cliffs

San Diego police Officer Jonathan Wiese was almost at Sunset Cliffs early Saturday when a lieutenant radioed that the suicidal driver police had been looking for had just driven off the cliffs. The man’s wife had called the Sheriff’s Department around 4:30 a.m. reporting that her husband had taken off with their 2-year-old girls, with plans to drive off the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. A sheriff’s dispatcher notified San Diego police and put out a description of the family and their tan pickup. After police traced the man’s cellphone to Sunset Cliffs, police Lt. Dave Bautista located the truck on Hill Street near Cornish Drive. As soon as Bautista got close, the driver sped off and careened off the edge, plunging into the ocean below. Wiese was on his way from the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, where he had been keeping an eye out for the truck, when he heard the radio call. “Literally, my heart sank,” Wiese said Sunday. He thought to himself, “Please tell me the girls were not in the car.” When he got to the scene moments later, he ran behind Bautista to the edge of the cliffs. They saw the truck upside down, smashed on a rock, with the cab underwater. Wiese said his first thought was that no one survived. Then he saw the motions of the man, holding onto the two girls.

Oct. 29,

Couple Stranded at Bottom of Cliffs

A couple’s relaxing evening on a Sunset Cliffs beach took a frightening turn when they found themselves in total darkness and unable to climb up the steep incline. The rescue call went out at 7:19 p.m. on Oct. 29 and sent lifeguards and San Diego Fire-Rescue crews from several stations to the cliffs at the intersection of Monaco Street. The first engine on the scene, observing the darkness at the site, put in a call for Copter 2, a department resource, to provide lighting for personnel.

Crews used the fully extended aerial ladder from Truck 20 to reach out over the cliffs. A system of ropes was used to lower rescuers to the beach where the uninjured man and woman were trapped. From there, each was raised separately with a firefighter, beginning with the woman, to safe ground above. A crowd of about 100 watched the complex operation, attracted by the helicopter and flashing lights of the half dozen fire vehicles and police blocking access to the scene. Once brought to safety, each offered identification to police officers. When finished, the couple sauntered off towards Ocean Beach as rescuers began the half-hour task of retrieving hundreds of feet of rope and retracting the huge aerial ladder.

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