Nevada Man Dies After Bluff Collapse Near Blacks Beach

As reported on

LA JOLLA – A popular strip of Torrey Pines State Beach has been temporarily closed after a section of the cliffs gave way yesterday and sent a fatal shower of sand and boulders onto a 57-year-old tourist below.

The man, who was visiting from Henderson, Nev., was struck in the head by basketball-size boulders and died shortly after at Scripps Memorial Hospital-La Jolla, authorities said.

His name has not been released.

"He was just spending a day at the beach with his family," said Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. "He’d gone to the foot of the cliff to take off his shoes, and a small section of the bluffs just gave way and came down."

The narrow beach area just north of Black’s Beach was roped off with caution tape while loose rocks and debris continued to fall late yesterday, said state lifeguard supervisor Jeff Bruck. State geologists were called in to evaluate the stability of that portion of the bluffs. "It’s a constant problem," Bruck said. "There’s no telling when or where a cliff will let loose."

Authorities don’t expect to keep the area permanently closed and hope visitors will heed the many signs already posted that warn of unstable cliffs, including a sign about 30 feet away from the fall site.

"There’s only so much you can do," Bruck said.

About three to five cubic yards of debris came down on the man about 1:20 p.m. – about an hour after high tide – near an area known as Flatrock, as the man’s brother and nephew played Frisbee on the beach.

The victim’s relatives and other beach-goers helped dig him out as state and city lifeguards converged on the scene, said fire department Battalion Chief Daniel Saner.

Emergency crews began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation while they waited for an all-terrain vehicle to carry him off the beach. He died at a trauma center.

The Torrey Pines area, popular with golfers and glider enthusiasts on top of the bluffs and beach-goers below, is notorious for its sandy, unstable cliffs.

"Not a year goes by without a significant collapse of these bluffs," said Patrick Abbott, a geologist with San Diego State University. "Most fall when no one is there. This was at the worst possible time, on a warm summer day when people are playing at the beach. Then an unremarkable event becomes a tragedy."