San Diego

Woman Paralyzed by Falling Boulder Has Warning for Beachgoers After Latest Rock Fall Incident

A geologist and a woman paralyzed by a boulder that fell from a cliff want people to realize the dangers of enjoying cliffs along the beach

After a jogger injured by a boulder that fell from the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach had to be rescued Monday, a geologist and a woman paralyzed by a similar anomaly want to warn beachgoers of the dangers hidden in rock faces' natural beauty.

Last April, Anna Hackenberg visited Torrey Pines State Beach for the first time to take a walk with friends visiting from Germany. That was the last time she'd ever walk anywhere.

A boulder came crashing down from the cliffs above on top of Hackenberg, paralyzing her.

"I don't actually have memory of the incident," she said. "I remember stepping onto the beach or the actual event but my friends they didn't see it either. They turned around and I was on the ground injured."

Injuries to Hackenberg and other walkers and joggers, like the woman who was injured Monday, have led to warning signs being placed along the beach. 

my heart goes out to her and her family

"My heart goes out to her and her family," Hackenberg said of the most recent victim who was jogging along the beach when a boulder fell and hit her.

Geologist Pat Abbot wants people to be safe, too, and hopes an explanation of the science behind cliff erosion will stick in their heads.

"Rainwater will soak through the rocks and weaken them. There's a lot of things that weaken them but what actually pulls them or makes them come down is simple gravity," Dr. Abbot said.

"The cliffs aren't the most stable," Hackenberg added. "Its nature and unpredictable and being aware is so important."

Hackenberg says she's moving forward from her accident and recently returned to work using a wheelchair. After running six marathons when she could still walk, she just completed the Rock and Roll Marathon on a hand cycle in less than three hours.

The woman injured Monday was taken off the beach alert in a stretcher with an apparent leg injury. San Diego Lifeguards did not confirm the extent of her injury, nor could they confirm the size of the boulder that hit her.

In September 2009, garbage-can sized chunks of rock fell onto the beach below the cliffs. No one was injured.

On August 20, 2008, a Las Vegas tourist was killed by a bluff collapse.

The victim was playing frisbee with family members when he walked over to the base of a cliff to take off his shoes, according to firefighters.

A section of the cliff gave way, crumbling on top of him. The victim suffered severe head trauma from the falling rocks.

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