The Deadly Cliffs

Solution Needed

Sunday, April 28, 2013
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Last weekend, yet another person took a plunge off the cliffs in Isla Vista. A 22-year-old sustained injuries when he jumped over a fence, slipped on ice plant, and fell off the edge of the cliffs in the 6600 block of Del Playa. He sustained serious injuries and was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

This man was just one in a long line of people who have been injured after falling from the cliffs. While some walk away from a fall with minor to moderate injuries, like the two young men who fell from the cliffs in September 2012 and whose landing was cushioned by seaweed, others aren’t so lucky.

Cat Neushul

During the Deltopia celebration at the beginning of April, a 18-year-old Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student named Giselle Esme Ayala died and her body was found on the beach at Campus Point. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department said that a preliminary investigation found that her injuries were consistent with those sustained after a fall. The investigation into her death is ongoing.

Over the years, there have been several people who have died after falling from the cliffs:

·      In 2012, 21-year-old David Propp, a UCSB physics major.

·      In 2009, 22-year-old Noah Krom, who died a week before graduating from UCSB.

·      In 2005, 22-year-old Tyler Von Ruden, a Santa Barbara City College student.

Even those who survive falls may end up with life-changing injuries. One man who fell from the cliffs 20 years ago sustained such serious brain damage that his life was never the same. This is something you rarely if learn about in the media. News agencies report that someone fell from the cliffs, and may talk about how badly they were injured, but do not follow up with a story about how their lives have changed. Some people sustain serious injuries that alter the trajectories of their lives.

Blame the Alcohol:Authorities point to alcohol as the major contributing factor in these tragedies. Alcohol does cause people to do stupid thinks that may endanger their lives, but that doesn’t mean that the discussion should end there. Yes, it would be wonderful if students in Isla Vista didn’t drink so much that they weren’t able to think clearly, but that isn’t going to happen. In other college towns, getting drunk might result in an embarrassing anecdote or an unpleasant experience, but rarely in death. In Isla Vista, one bad choice, like walking too close to the edge of the cliffs, can bring about catastrophic results.

The Solution: One of the ways local officials have tackled this problem is through putting up fences along the cliffs. Recently, the Associated Students of UCSB, Santa Barbara County, and the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District collaborated in an effort to put fencing along the cliffs in Walter Capps Park in a portion that was still open.

Although the fencing is necessary, it does not seem to be enough. For whatever reason, people decide to jump over fences and end up falling off the edge of the cliffs anyway.

The solution to that problem definitely needs to be a combination of behavioral and environmental strategies.

Some of these strategies might include:

·      Educational outreach through fliers, signs, etc. This would be a start, but it won’t be enough. With celebrations like Halloween and Deltopia bringing in thousands of people from out of town, local educational efforts aren’t going to keep everyone safe. Out-of-towners won’t be privy to this type of educational information.

·      Another solution might be found by installing some sort of safety mechanism along the cliff, like a light that comes on when people have gone past a certain point, or sensors of some other sort.

The bottom line is that something has to be done to solve this problem. No one wants another young person to die or be seriously injured in this way. It’s time for these types of tragedies to stop.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Maybe sensors that trigger flashing lights and a loud alarm blaring "step back from the cliff"? Of course, the neighbors would hate it, but it should work.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
April 28, 2013 at 10:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Even the best laid plans can go bad. You can tell your kid "don't take drugs" "don't get in a car with a stranger" "don't drink and drive" but a certain percentage of the population will still do it.

In Isla Vista, there is a huge culture of risk-taking; alcohol is just one manifestation of it. For years people argued on the threads of this very publication about the Cold Springs Bridge and despite what we were told by those arguing in favor of the bridge, it has not stopped suicides from occurring.

It may sound cold, but some people are going to fall off cliffs, drive drunk, walk on train tracks with headphones blaring so loud they can't hear the train, and have unprotected sex with strangers in a world of AIDS because some people simply don't have the judgement to do otherwise. All we can do as a society is try to educate each other about the fact that there are consequences for these behaviors.

Perhaps posting the names of the maimed and killed on the area where these tragedies are happening would help.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 3:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

BC, I agree with your comment: "some people are going to fall off cliffs, . . . because some people simply don't have the judgement to do otherwise."

And I like your suggestion of "posting the names of the maimed and killed on the area where these tragedies are happening. . ."

And please, no sound alarms.

Carmelo (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 6:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Signage may help. In Hawaii where tourists routinely drown, that seems to be the preferred method.

Some Kuaui beaches have signs that show a count of the number of deaths

Oahu uses signage and on some beaches, like near North shore pipeline, lifeguards also roam the beach on ATVs and warn tourists when they get to close to the surf zone

hodgmo (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 7:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Stop enforcing the no serving alcohol at open parties policy. All this does is encourage everybody to get as drunk as possible before they go out. In my day, you had a few drinks, got buzzed and then went to a keg party where you had to wait 3 or 4 minutes for a cup of watery lager. Then at the end of the night you would head back to somewhere hopefully with people of the opposite sex to take shots. Or bongloads. Then you got the spins, passed out and woke up with a hangover and went to the Blue Dolphin. Very simple.

Another good idea might be to replace the IVFP on Del Playa with un-armed CSO (ok, they can have some pepper spray..and a walkie-talkie). Let the IVFP hang out near by in case they get radio'd in for a real emergency. In the mean time the CSO can help make sure that nobody is getting too out of control, hurting themselves or others. They can help walk people home who might be vulnerable. They can make sure nobody is being robbed or raped in the shadows without scaring the crap out of the party goers and causing them to fall off the cliffs.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 10:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Indeed a broken clock is correct twice a day. The "no serving alcohol" law has disastrously backfired, same as the drug war and everything else we try to legislate away.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 11:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess an alcohol- or drug-addled college-aged person apparently needs "educational outreach" ahead of time to be taught that it's a bad idea to climb over a fence...

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 11:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nothing is a bad idea when you're drunk. It's responsible drinking at the very least that is missing in many people's upbringing, at least in this country where excess is celebrated and moderation in anything condemned.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 12:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sad, but true, Ken....

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 12:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Once every few years a very drunk student gets lost and somehow wanders into my back yard in Isla Vista, and tries really hard to open the back door. When I talk to them they are so disoriented they have no idea where they are, and fixate on the door and somehow decide it leads into their apartment.

So I get the foot patrol and they take them away... never have felt threatened, they are really harmless drunks...about 5 or so times so far in 25 years. Once a boy and a girl, no clothes. I've been burglarized too, but the disoriented drunks are a well defined helpless group.

Pretty sure they were all in total blackout. The amazing thing is they could walk and talk at all... must be that some people in an extremely drunk state don't just pass out, but become a bit like a zombie. Most of them know their names and addresses, which didn't help when they were from out of town, and couldn't remember why they came to IV.

In that state, it is easy to imagine them going over the cliff with no clue whatsoever as to what happened. Death during blackout.

When the foot patrol sees utterly wasted young people on the street, they arrest them. But inevitably a few will be missed on DP, and end up going over the cliff. It is tragic.

Noah Krom was a different case. He jumped over the fence on purpose, and lost control and fell. Maybe he was evading a taxi fare. Still tragic, but for a whole different reason.

pardallchewinggumspot (anonymous profile)
April 29, 2013 at 4:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I suggest a platoon of public servants, each at arm's length from each other and with their backs to the ocean, smiling and waiting to intervene with anyone uneducated enough to get too close to the cliff. A secondary team of language translation specialists will be poised and ready as well so that we can educated the uneducated in order to stop any subsequent "near cliff experiences".

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
April 30, 2013 at 6:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How 'bout we raise our cultural standards and quit celebrating stupidity?

When the Kardashian sisters are the big national news item, it's a true sign we have achieved utopian Idiocracy.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 2:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Kardashian's are smarter than Boxer or Pelosi and at least as ethical as McCaine or Boehner.
Set the bar low enough and everyone looks good.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 6:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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