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Man trapped in hole on Sunset Cliffs for days rescued

A man trapped in a hole for several days along the side of a cliff in Sunset Cliffs near Orchard and Cable streets in Ocean Beach was rescued Friday just after 11 a.m., fire officials said.

Rescuers, using a rope-and-pulley system, hoisted the man with a stretcher onto the bluffs above the sea cliffs. The man was discovered trapped around 3:40 p.m. Thursday. He told rescuers he had been trapped there since Tuesday.

"It is a miracle when you’re that far down stuck in a hole. We’re hoping for the best," San Diego Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief of Operations Dan Eddy said. "I’ve seen worse. We all have. So to get him out and have him smiling, it’s a good day."


The rescue itself took 20 hours. Firefighters say the biggest challenge was the extremely tight space. They were worried he could be bleeding out or could drown as water filled the bottom of the cave.

"Waist down (he) was crushed with rock and debris, so as he slid down, everything compressed around him," Eddy said. "And the rocks moved in on him."

Rescue teams from San Diego and Chula Vista Fire Department worked Thursday until the tide began to rise, which forced them to pause, according to authorities.

It was the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department cave rescue team that eventually freed the man. He was pinned against rocks, so rescuers said they had to break up the rocks with small explosions.

Kris Correa and his friends were walking near the cliffs Thursday when they heard the trapped man crying for help. The teenagers were there celebrating a birthday. Correa said the man told them he slipped while walking on the rocks and had been there for three days. The friends tried to pull him out before realizing how bad the situation was.


"We didn't know he was stuck between two rocks and we couldn't pull him out, that’s why we called 911," Correa said.

Eddy said it was a good thing they did.

"If they didn't call 911 we wouldn't be having this story that we do today with the fact that we saved someone and got him out," he said. "So the teenagers did a great job because had they not heard it, he was slowly losing consciousness, and it would have been a different story for sure."

Rescue teams from San Diego and Chula Vista Fire Department worked Thursday until the tide began to rise, which forced them to pause, according to authorities.

The trapped man was provided with electrolytes, hot packs and blankets until morning, when rescue efforts resumed. An engine company remained there overnight with him.

Once the tide went down, rescuers were finally able to free the trapped man by 11 a.m. Friday.

The man, who was not immediately identified, was reported to be in good condition, was alert and talking to emergency crews after being extricated. He was taken to a hospital for further evaluation.

Firefighters said the man was in and out of consciousness at times but did thank first responders for saving his life. Fire crews said they’ve never done a technical rescue like this before.

Units responding to the cliff rescue included one division chief, one medical supervisor, seven engines, three battalion chiefs, one truck, one medic and 59 personnel.

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