Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Surfers wait at the top of the stairs above the site of a cliff collapse at a popular beach Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, in Encinitas, Calif. At least one person was reportedly killed, and multiple people were injured, when an oceanfront bluff collapsed Friday at Grandview Beach in the Leucadia area of Encinitas, authorities said. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Denis Poroy/AP Photo

A popular surfing beach was closed Saturday after a cliff collapsed, sending tons of sandstone onto beachgoers and killing three people.

A nine-metre-long slab of the cliff plunged onto the sand near Grandview Beach north of San Diego. A KNSD-TV helicopter captured footage of beach chairs, towels, surf boards and beach toys strewn about the sand.

Other beachgoers and lifeguards at a nearby tower scrambled to the towering pile of debris, which was estimated to weigh tens of thousands of pounds, to help dig out victims.

Story continues below advertisement

“I saw first responders, and I saw lifeguards frantically digging people out of the debris,” Jim Pepperdine, who lives nearby, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Pepperdine said he saw people trying to resuscitate a woman before her body was covered.

A woman died at the scene, and two more people later died at hospitals. Another person was taken to a hospital, and a person who had minor injuries was treated at the scene, according to statements from the city.

Their names and ages were not immediately released. All the victims were adults, authorities said.

Search dogs were brought in to hunt for other possible victims, and a skip loader was brought in to move the dense, heavy debris. No other victims were found by late Friday night.

The beach is reached by wooden stairs from a parking lot above. Homes atop the cliff were not in any danger, Encinitas Fire Chief Mike Stein said.

The cliff remained unstable and complicated the search effort, Stein said.

Story continues below advertisement

Suburbs north of San Diego have contended with rising water levels in the Pacific Ocean, pressuring bluffs along the coast. Some bluffs are fortified with concrete walls to prevent multimillion-dollar homes from falling into the sea.

Long stretches of beach in Encinitas are narrow strips of sand between stiff waves and towering rock walls. People lounging on beach chairs or blankets are sometimes surprised as waves roll past them and within a few feet of the walls.

Grandview Beach is fairly narrow, with tides high this week. Surfers lay their boards upright against the bluff.

Cliffside collapses are not unusual as the ocean chews away at the base of the sandstone, authorities said. Some beach areas were marked with signs warning of slide dangers.

Several people have been killed or injured over the years in bluff collapses. The Tribune reported that Rebecca Kowalczyk, 30, of Encinitas died near the same area on Jan. 16, 2000, when a 110-yard-wide chunk of bluff fell and buried her.

Bluffs give way four to eight times a year in Southern California, but “nothing of this magnitude,” said Brian Ketterer, southern field division chief of California State Parks.

Story continues below advertisement

“This is a naturally eroding coastline,” Encinitas Lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles said. “There’s really no rhyme or reason, but that’s what it does naturally. …. This is what it does, and this is how are beaches are actually partially made. It actually has these failures.”

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies