A sandstone sea bluff collapsed in southern California on Friday, killing three people and injuring two others.
Officials say that naturally occurring erosion caused a bluff to collapse at around 2:54 p.m. at Grandview Beach in Leucadia, California, a community in the city of Encinitas north of San Diego.
One of the victims, who is described as a woman, was pronounced dead on the scene. Two others were rushed to the hospital in critical condition, where they were pronounced dead. One victim was treated at a hospital for minor injuries, and another was treated on the scene for minor injuries.
The victims have not yet been identified to the public, but all are believed to be adults.
Encinitas Fire Chief Mike Stein said that a lifeguard at a station nearby realized that the sandstone was collapsing when he heard the sound of it falling. Emergency responders arrived on the scene about four minutes later.
About 15 to 20 cubic yards of material collapsed on a 25-by-30 foot area of the beach, Stein said.
The rescue team initially used hand tools and buckets to move the sandstone, but officials said that they later planned to send in heavy equipment like front end loaders, said Encinitas Lifeguard Department Captain Larry Giles. Two cadaver dogs were brought in to ensure no victims were trapped in the rubble.
Giles said that the bluff is made of “heavy and dense Torrey sandstone” which needs to be broken apart to be moved. Officials said that sandstone collapses about four to eight times a year along the coastline.
“This is a naturally eroding coastline. There’s really no rhyme or reason,” Giles said of the collapse.
Signs are placed along the coastline to advise beachgoers to keep away from the bluffs. Officials advised beachgoers to keep 25 to 40 feet away from the bluffs.
Grandview Beach was closed following the collapse.