A chunk of a cliff the size of a bus fell in a California bluff collapse, leaving 3 dead and 2 injured

Posted at 9:00 AM, Aug 03, 2019

ENCINITAS, Calif. — Three people are dead and two people were injured Friday when a bluff collapsed just north of Grandview Surf Beach in Encinitas, California , San Diego County Sheriff's deputies confirmed.

The bluff fell at about 3 p.m. near a lifeguard tower at the Grandview Beach staircase.

One person was flown to the hospital in critical condition. A second victim was transported to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. Both of those victims have succumbed to their injuries. Officials closed part of Highway 101 temporarily Friday afternoon to land a life flight helicopter.

Two others suffered minor injuries and their conditions are unknown at this time. There were no children among the victims, deputies said during a news conference Friday.

Search and rescue dogs are assisting crews to determine if anyone else may be trapped under the debris.

One person who talked to KGTV said he arrived at the beach moments after the collapse and saw crowds trying to clear rocks away from the collapse to save anyone who was trapped.

"It's just horrifying that the people underneath were there in the moment," said Fabian. "Let's just hope for the people."

Video showed more than 20 deputies and rescue officials near the debris field moments after the disaster. Beach chairs and surfboards that had been positioned near the cliff were scattered as rescue teams began their work.

The chunk of cliff that collapsed is about the size of a bus and is as heavy as a concrete wall, said geologist Pat Abbott. The area is 25 feet by 30 feet, lifeguard officials confirmed, adding that the debris reaches 10 feet at its highest point.

Rising waves are creating a dangerous situation for first responders. The disaster happened about an hour and a half before low tide, with "one of the highest tides of the year" occurring late Friday night, lifeguards said.

"This will continue to the point where it becomes unsafe for teams to get in there and work," said Larry Giles of Encinitas Lifeguards.

Soil experts were also concerned about a potential second collapse, but said homes on the cliff were not at risk.

Officials requested heavy equipment to remove debris and "meticulously break it apart to look for anyone else."

Lifeguards closed the beach from the Leucadia-Carlsbad border to just south of Grandview for their rescue effort.

“No one woke up thinking this would happen," said a deputy on the scene. "We're going to do the best we can to get through this."

This story was originally published by Allison Horn on KGTV .