The Deadly Cliffs

Solution Needed

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.


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