Pandemic Lowers Deaths and Injuries at Sunset Cliffs for Second Year in 2021: 4 Injuries, 1 Death

by on January 17, 2022 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

Lifeguards rescue swimmer on Jan. 6, 2021, off Sunset Cliffs.

It appears that the pandemic has lowered deaths and serious injuries at Sunset Cliffs for the second year. There was one death and 4 injuries due to human interaction with the beautifully stunning but treacherous cliffs during 2021, the second year of COVID-19.

The OB Rag has maintained a survey of deaths and serious injuries at the cliffs since 2005 and we have found an average of 5 deaths / serious injuries per year over that period of time. (Here is a link to last year’s report.)

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 2021 is 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.

January 6, 2021

On Wednesday at about 5 p.m., San Diego Fire-Rescue lifeguards received a 9-1-1 call for assistance about a swimmer in distress. A woman had jumped into the ocean off of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. north of Froude Street and quickly became overcome by the high surf. A surfer passing by saw her and kept her afloat while lifeguards responded. Within minutes, lifeguard trucks arrived and two lifeguards jumped into the water to relieve the surfer. The high surf pushed the lifeguards and woman back toward the rocks which prompted a request for additional resources. A third lifeguard jumped into the water and more arrived on rescue water crafts and a surf boat. After tremendous effort by the lifeguards, this critical rescue of the young woman was accomplished. Before lifeguards arrived, two young men also tried to help but were pushed onto the rocks and couldn’t get to the woman.

The surf was 6 to 8 feet high and washing over the rocks. These conditions were challenging and dangerous for even the most very experienced and skilled swimmers. Were it not for the quick actions of the surfer and lifeguards, this woman may not have survived. San Diego Fire-Rescue Department

February 20

On Saturday, Feb. 20, an unidentified man in this 20s jumped into the waters off Sunset Cliffs about 5 pm. He started having trouble getting out of the water and someone called 911. When lifeguards arrived at the scene, they saw that a good Samaritan surfer had pushed his surfboard over to the man who jumped to keep him afloat. The water craft team pulled the man from the water and got him to pocket beach, known as, No Surf Beach.

Lifeguards said the man had an extremely low body temperature and needed to be evaluated quickly. The San Diego Fire Department’s helicopter airlifted the man to the street, where he was placed in an ambulance and rushed to the hospital. Lifeguards said he was conscious and breathing when he was taken away. Lifeguards said without the good Samaritan surfer who helped them with the rescue, the outcome could have been much different.

August 14

Man Survives 40-Foot Fall Off Sunset Cliffs

Dustin Tanis said he had never been to the area before Saturday night and didn’t know the rocks were unstable. As he looked for his friends, who had invited him to a beach party, it was too dark to see any warning signs. “I went to one of the cliffs at the edge to take a look down to see if it was a way to get down there, and before I knew it, the rock underneath me cracked and fell,” he said. “I went from standing on solid ground to falling through the air.”

“I thought to myself, you have to land on your feet to protect your head and your back,” he said. “You have to land on your feet. It’s going to hurt, but broken legs are going to feel better than a broken skull or spine.”

Tanis said he was fully conscious when first responders arrived, and he heard them say there was no way a helicopter could get to him. Instead, he said, rescuers used a rope pulley system to slowly scale him up the mountain. “I kept going in and out of consciousness at that point when I was on the gurney — and that’s when I kept thinking I was going to die,” Tanis said.

But he survived, although he suffered several broken bones, a collapsed lung and a crushed ankle. His recovery will be long, but he says he is so grateful to those who came to the rescue. “Unbelievable what they did, because they risked their lives going down the same cliffs that crumbled under me. And having to pull me back up like that, that wasn’t easy,” he said. “They could’ve hurt their bodies just as well as I did. They are heroes. They saved my life, and I am forever grateful.” San Diego Fox5

November 12

Lifeguards pulled an undocumented migrant suffering from hypothermia from the ocean early in the day after a panga was found near Sunset Cliffs, prompting crews to spend several hours searching the area for other people. The San Diego Police Department first started getting calls around 2:40 a.m. about yelling coming from the Sunset Cliffs area. Officers arrived to the 1100 block of Sunset Cliffs, found a panga they believed to have flipped in the water, and also heard the screaming, prompting a response from SDFD Lifeguards and a rescue helicopter as well. The helicopter spotted one person struggling in the ocean about half a mile off the coast and dropped a flotation device to the man. A lifeguard on a surfboard went out to help rescue the stranded man, who was taken to shore and then UCSD Medical Center by paramedics. The man was alert and breathing when he was taken to the hospital, but suffering from hypothermia, fire officials said.

The man reportedly told authorities that he had dropped off several people at the shore and when he got back into the water, his boat stalled, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. He jumped into the ocean and tried swimming to shore but was unsuccessful, so started yelling for help. According to US Border Patrol officials who responded to the scene, the boat was abandoned and contained fuel cans and at least 18 life jackets. Officials added that it appeared the boat had engine trouble. Fire officials told ABC 10News that the rescued man said half of the people in the boat stayed while half jumped into the water. Crews were still searching the area for anyone else who may have been in the boat several hours later. No other individuals who may have been in the boat were found as of 10 a.m. 10News

November 26

On Friday, November 26, a body of a male was found floating in waters off Sunset Cliffs. The fully-clothed male was discovered by a fisherman looking for lobster around 6:30 p.m. off Ladera Street and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. The body was found about 200 feet offshore. As of now, the man is unidentified and his age is unknown. San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Lonnie Stephens told the media:

“It was dark, and we just don’t have any other details. There are a lot of unknown circumstances surrounding the incident.”

The San Diego Police Department and Medical Examiner’s Office reportedly investigated the man’s death. Stephens said the man who discovered the body was hoop-netting for lobsters from shore in the area, which is an allowed activity in that area of Sunset Cliffs.

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