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Three People Are Dead After A Cliff Collapsed On A California Beach

The victims were buried in tons of rubble after a 30-foot-long sandstone chunk broke free of the oceanside bluff.

Posted on August 3, 2019, at 1:27 p.m. ET

Denis Poroy / AP

Three people were killed Friday afternoon after a cliff collapsed on a beach in Encinitas, California, officials said.

One person was declared dead at the scene, and two others died of their injuries at the hospital. Another two people were also injured.

The victims were buried in tons of rubble after a 30-foot-long sandstone chunk broke free of the oceanside bluff and fell onto the Southern California beach, which is a popular surfing spot.

“They were facing the ocean,” Encinitas Fire and Marine Safety Capt. Larry Giles told the Washington Post. “So it came from behind them and basically overtook them and crushed them.”

Cadaver dogs were brought in Friday to search the debris for more victims, according to the local CBS station, and city of Encinitas spokesperson Paul Brencick told BuzzFeed News that the search operation was complete as of Saturday morning.

"I saw first responders, and I saw lifeguards frantically digging people out of the debris," Jim Pepperdine, who lives near the area, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“They were clearly distraught,” Pepperdine said. “It was a normal beach day gone awry.”

The identities of the victims have not yet been made public.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said in a statement said she is "devastated by the tragedy today and our hearts go out to the victims and their families."

"We stand ready to help in any way possible," Blakespear said. "Our engineers and the public safety team are diligently working to assess bluff conditions.”

The City has confirmed that two of the three victims that were transported to local area hospitals earlier today have succumbed to their injuries. This brings the total fatalities from this incident to three. Beachgoers should continue to use caution when visiting beach areas.

Bluff collapses such as this one occur because of natural erosion, and Encinitas citizens are warned about their dangers on the city's website.

"This erosion is usually slow and gradual, but sometimes occurs in major bluff failures or collapses. Being caught in a bluff collapse area can cause serious injury or death," a beach safety guide on the website said.

Several people have died over the years in similar cliff collapses in the area. In 2000, 30-year-old Rebecca Kowalczyk reportedly died on the same beach when a piece of the bluff fell and buried her.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.