A summer’s day at the beach turned to tragedy Friday afternoon when a bluff near San Diego, California, collapsed, killing three people and injuring at least two others.
The bluff, on Grandview Beach in Encinitas, California, which is north of San Diego, collapsed around 3 p.m. on Friday, city officials said, sharing the news on the city’s Twitter account.
The tons of sand and dirt fell on a group sitting below, burying them alive.
A woman was pronounced dead at the scene, the Los Angeles Times reported and all other injured individuals were taken to local hospitals, the city explained in a later tweet.
One person was life-flighted in critical condition, another person was ground transported in critical condition and two other people only had minor injuries, local news outlet ABC 10 reported.
The City of Encinitas shared a few hours after that “two of the three victims that were transported to local area hospitals earlier today have succumbed to their injuries,” bringing the total fatalities to three.
After locating the victims, emergency responders announced that the rescue mission was far from over as officials weren’t exactly sure if there were any other beachgoers still trapped underneath the collapsed mound.
Encinitas Fire Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s department remained on the scene for most of the night, fighting against the clock as the tide rolled in closer to the disaster zone. Waves routinely swell all the way up to the area of Grandview Beach where the bluff collapsed, ABC10 reported.
No other victims have been found at this time.
As the city conducts an investigation into the bluff’s disintegration, San Diego County Sheriff officials remain on the scene, securing the perimeter and warning people to stay away from the dangerous area, a San Diego County Sheriff official tells PEOPLE.
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The city’s geotechnical engineer is at the scene to evaluate the bluff’s condition, and confirmed that the homes atop the bluff do not appear to be at risk — nonetheless, it is recommended that anyone going to that beach should avoid the area by at least 25 to 40 feet.
The section of cliff that fell was 30-foot-by-25-foot, authorities told the LA Times.
The City of Encinitas says on its website that the cliffs in the area experience “frequent bluff failures,” and that “in most areas hiking near or directly on top of the bluffs is prohibited.”
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“It is also important for visitors to avoid standing or sitting directly underneath unstable bluffs, since they may collapse,” the website continues, adding that warning signs are located at several dangerous spots along the beach.
“We are devastated by the tragedy today and our hearts go out to the victims and their families,” said Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “We stand ready to help in any way possible. Our engineers and the public safety team are diligently working to assess bluff conditions.”
The immediate area adjacent to the collapsed bluff will remain closed to the public until further notice, the city announced on its website.
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