Three people who were fatally crushed when a bluff collapsed at an Encinitas beach Friday, Aug. 2 were part of the same family: a 35-year-old woman, her 65-year-old mother and an aunt.
Anne Clave and her mother, Julie Davis, both died at hospitals following the collapse, the Medical Examiner’s Office said Saturday, Aug. 3. On Monday, Aug. 5, the office identified the third victim as Elizabeth Charles. The 62-year-old San Francisco resident died at the scene.
NBC San Diego reported that Charles was Clave’s aunt.
The victims were part of a large family gathering at Grandview Surf Beach that day celebrating Charles’ victory over breast cancer, NBC 7 reported.
The Davis family has called Encinitas home for 40 years, according to a 2016 profile in 92024 magazine. Davis was a mother of four, with nine grandchildren, according to the article.
Davis’ husband, Pat, runs a pediatric dentist practice in Encinitas with one of his sons. Clave was listed as the practice’s office manager in another 92024 article in 2016.
The magazine also ran a photo of the Davis extended family, showing Clave with husband Curtis and two young children. The article said Clave attended the University of Southern California.
Bouquets had been placed on the front porch of a home believed to be Clave’s. No one answered the door.
On Saturday morning, lifeguards reopened the beach on both sides of the collapse zone. Surfers and others soon made their way down the long stairs to the narrow beach.
“You can’t let it stop you from coming down,” Leucadia resident William Stedman said.
But, he said, he is cognizant of the dangers and tries to stay back from the base of the bluff. “That’s always on your mind,” he said.
He said he had been in the area yesterday and heard the sirens.
With the tide up and sometimes scraping the bottom of the bluffs, a lifeguard shooed away surfers who walked near the yellow tape that marked the collapse site. Occasionally, people came by and placed flowers there.
Former area resident Kaitra Sbriagia, 31, brought her daughter so they could lay flowers for three people they did not know. She said that, growing up, she considered the place her home beach.
“I don’t know how many times we sat there,” she said of the collapse area.
Less than 24 hours after the heavy sandstone slid down the bluff, tides had already pulled some of the sand out to sea.
At a news conference held before the beach reopened, Encinitas Lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles said his agency would post a lifeguard in the area and keep an eye on the site.
The captain said the lifeguard tower near the scene was moved away from the area Saturday morning, Aug. 3, and that officials have determined that “the area is still active.” He said a geologist assessing the scene was “concerned about the areas to the side of the current failure failing.”
Giles said the bluff failure did not put the homes on top of the cliff in immediate danger.
The collapse happened shortly before 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2 in a popular surf spot with a narrow beach between the water and the sandstone cliffs.
Just north of the stairs leading to the sand, a roughly 30-foot-wide chunk of the cliff slipped away. The heavy sandstone crashed down onto the victims near the base of the cliff.
A nearby lifeguard felt and heard the thud as the dense dirt landed.
“It just happened to take place outside his peripheral (vision),” Giles said, noting that the lifeguard had had his eyes on the water.
It’s not yet clear when the collapse zone will reopen.
“We are going to continue on assessing that with the experts,” Giles told reporters, “and the team will continue to reevaluate and determine how long we are going to keep that closed.”
Asked by a reporter if last month’s 7.1 earthquake in Ridgecrest — roughly 200 miles away in Kern County, but felt in San Diego County — could have been a factor in shaking the crumbling cliffs even looser, Giles said there had been no mention of that by the geologists assessing the bluff.
“It’s just an erosion incident that took place at this location at the wrong time,” Giles said.
— Teri Figueroa and Kristina Davis are reporters for The San Diego Union Tribune
—San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Pauline Repard contributed to this report