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California

Encinitas beach cliff collapse area is ‘still active’

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Firefighters look at a section of oceanfront bluff that collapsed Friday, killing three women.
(Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The cliff collapse that killed three women Friday in Encinitas, Calif., remains active and it is unclear when the area will reopen.

Encinitas Lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles said Saturday the lifeguard tower near the scene was moved away from the area Saturday morning, and that officials have determined that “the area is still active.” He said a geologist assessing the scene was “concerned about the areas to the side of the current failure failing.”

SD-APphoto_California Cliff Collapse
Hayne Palmour IV  U-T A bouquet of flowers lies on some of the sand rock debris from Friday’s bluff collapse, which killed three women, near the Grandview Beach access in Encinitas. Encinitas Lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles said Saturday that a lifeguard will be posted near the collapse zone.
(Hayne Palmour IV/AP)

Giles said the homes on top of the cliff were not in immediate danger.

Cliff erosion has long been a danger in San Diego County and other areas. Last fall, sections of the cliffs in Del Mar collapsed three times in just a few weeks. Beachgoers had been cleared from the area, and there were no injuries.

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The Encinitas collapse happened shortly before 3 p.m. Friday in a popular surf spot with a narrow beach between the water and the sandstone cliffs.

Just north of the stairs leading to the sand, a roughly 30-foot-wide chunk of the cliff slipped away. The heavy sandstone crashed down onto the victims near the base of the cliff.

A nearby lifeguard felt and heard the thud as the dense dirt landed.

“It just happened to take place outside his peripheral [vision],” Giles said, noting that the lifeguard had had his eyes on the water.

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It’s not yet clear when the collapse zone will reopen.

“We are going to continue on assessing that with the experts,” Giles told reporters, “and the team will continue to reevaluate and determine how long we are going to keep that closed.”

Asked by a reporter if last month’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Ridgecrest — roughly 200 miles away in Kern County, but felt in San Diego County — could have been a factor in shaking the crumbling cliffs even looser, Giles said there had been no mention of that by the geologists assessing the bluff.

“It’s just an erosion incident that took place at this location at the wrong time,” Giles said.

The victims were part of the same family: a 35-year-old woman, her 65-year-old mother and her aunt. They were part of a large family gathering at Grandview Beach that day celebrating the aunt’s victory over breast cancer.

Davis and Figueroa report for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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