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Calif. teens, lifeguards, FFs and deputies save man pinned by rocks

Teens heard the man, trapped for days in a crevice, screaming for help


San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department/Facebook

By Katie Dowd

SAN DIEGO — A monumental rescue effort saved a man who was trapped for days after falling into a tiny crevasse at a California beach.

The ordeal began sometime last week when a man walking along the ocean at Orchard and Cable in San Diego “slipped & fell under broken concrete sections on the side of a cliff,” San Diego fire officials wrote on social media. On Thursday, a group of teenagers hanging out up above heard unusual sounds that sounded like someone calling for help; when they went looking for the source, they discovered a man stuck inside the cliff.

“Our friend Justin was like pretty much headfirst into this hole, trying to grab his hand while, me and our other friend were like grabbing his ankles making sure he doesn’t also fall in,” La Mesa teen Chris Correa told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Unable to grab him, the teens called 911 and stayed with the man until help arrived. Fire crews soon found the man’s legs were completely stuck. When they asked how long he’d been in this predicament, the man guessed it had been “a couple of days.”

With only about 18 inches of working space and the tide rising, rescuers feared the man might drown before they could extricate him. They consulted forecasters, who estimated the tide would likely cover the man’s legs but not endanger his life further. Fire crews stayed with the man throughout the night, giving him heating packs, an IV and electrolytes while they waited for the sun to rise and the tide to recede.

On Friday morning, a San Diego Fire Department technical rescue team, the Chula Vista Fire Department and cave rescue specialists from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department began drilling and digging the rocks around the man’s legs.

“He was pinned from the waist down,” the San Diego Fire Department said in an incident report. “Friday morning when the team from San Bernardino County Sheriff began their work on splitting the rocks so that rescuers could break the rocks by hand, the victim expressed that he felt relief as rescuers worked to remove the rocks from his legs. He was talking to rescuers most of the time but there were occasions during the night when he was briefly unconscious.”

Finally, at around 11 a.m. Friday, the man was freed from his prison. He was then strapped to a stokes basket and airlifted to street level, where a waiting ambulance took him to the hospital. It’s believed he suffered crush injuries from “being pinned by heavy rocks and debris.” His identity is not being released, and officials are still uncertain of exactly how long the man was stuck in the crevasse.

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