A landslide buried two women at Fort Funston on Feb. 22, leaving one injured and one still unaccounted for as of Monday evening.
Witnesses said two women became trapped when a cliff collapsed as they were walking near the beach. Bystanders saved one woman, but were unable to locate the other. The rescued woman sustained non-life-threatening injuries and is recovering at San Francisco General Hospital, according to San Francisco Fire Department Capt. Jim Green.
The rescue effort turned into a recovery operation when emergency responders were unable to find the missing woman after shoveling through sand and dirt for hours.
“This recovery begins now,” San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Jonathan Baxter said. “We want to see that person safe and we want to see that person being alive and OK. It’s not in our DNA to give up.”
The recovery team failed to locate the woman from Feb. 22 to 24 due to “tidal action, continued sandy bluff instability and anticipated storm conditions,” according to a National Park Service press release.
Fort Funston is a popular destination for hang-gliding, hiking and horseback riding. Its 200-foot-high ridges, strong winds and powerful ocean waves make it a steep and treacherous landscape for unwary visitors.
“[The cliff] can’t support itself,” rescue worker Sean Scallan said. “It’s been falling a lot.”
Scallan has worked in the area where the accident occurred for the past 20 years and said he believes the weather from last week’s atmospheric river contributed to the moisture and eventual collapse of the cliff.
Park officials confirmed the weather may have been responsible for the cliff collapse.
“This appears to be an unfortunate and isolated natural incident,” Golden Gate National Recreation Area spokesperson Charlie Strickfaden said. “Ocean waves, soft sand and soil, and recent storm events contribute to erosion of beaches and coastal bluffs. Beach and coastal bluff areas throughout the Bay Area are popular attractions.”