The most recent incident on July 3 was alcohol-related, according to rescuers.
The visual and auditory lure of the rugged cliffs draws large numbers of people to leave their cars and enjoy the surging waves, sparkling sea, soaring pelicans and nightly sunsets. The vista can range from dreary gray to blazing yellows, oranges and reds as the sun’s rays filter through billowing clouds.
Many of those drawn to the cliffs, according to authorities, are inexperienced in traversing the rocky precipice, but they make their way to the beaches below anyway. Then, for varying reasons, they find themselves unable to get back up.
“Probably in the last six months, we’ve had three or four of these types of incidents right here [at Sunset Cliffs],” said Fire-Rescue Department Battalion Chief Steve Ricci after a late-June rescue that began at 9 p.m.
“It’s a dangerous, unstable cliff area,” Ricci said. “People go down there to have a little party and can’t make it out once it gets dark.”
Last week’s rescue took place during daylight hours when — according to rescuers — a group of young adults allegedly drank alcohol on the sand below Sunset Cliffs Park, accessed by Ladera Street at the southernmost end of the publicly accessible cliffs below the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University.
When they decided to return to their car, a 20-year-old woman was reportedly too intoxicated to attempt the climb, prompting her friends to call for help.
A crowd of onlookers gathered as rescuers went to work.
Firefighter-paramedics made a quick assessment of the woman’s medical condition. A small army of Fire-Rescue personnel — including lifeguards, firefighters and paramedics along with San Diego police officers — responded to the distress call.
They spent nearly an hour constructing an elaborate system of stakes driven into the ground with different-colored ropes and carabiners, all meticulously threaded through pulleys that were eventually used to raise the unnamed victim below.
The woman was placed in a protective rescue litter and raised with care to safety above.
She was observed laughing during the rescue and several times attempted to remove Velcro straps securing her to the litter.
While the woman was being examined and questioned in an ambulance, a police officer told her companions, “Your friend will be going to jail for drunk in public.”