‘I kept thinking I was going to die’: Man recalls terrifying fall off Sunset Cliffs

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SAN DIEGO — A man is lucky to be alive after falling 40 feet from atop the bluffs at Sunset Cliffs Saturday night. 

Dustin Tanis said he had never been to Sunset Cliffs before and didn’t know the rocks were unstable.

“I went to one of the cliffs at the edge to take a look down to see if it was a way to get down there and before I knew it, the rock underneath me cracked and fell,” he said. “I went from standing on solid ground to falling through the air.”

As he looked for his friends, who invited him to a beach party, Tanis said it was too dark to see any warning signs.

“I thought to myself, you have to land on your feet to protect your head and your back,” he said. “You have to land on your feet. It’s going to hurt, but broken legs are going to feel better than a broken skull or spine.” 

Tanis said he was fully conscious when first responders arrived, remembering them saying there was no way a helicopter could get to him. Instead, he says rescuers came up with a rope pulley system, slowly scaling him up the mountain.

“I kept going in and out of consciousness at that point when I was on the gurney — and that’s when I kept thinking I was going to die.”

However, Tanis survived thanks to first responders. He suffered several broken bones, a collapsed lung and his ankle was crushed. His recovery will be long, but he says he is so grateful to those who came to the rescue.

“Unbelievable what they did because they risked their lives going down the same cliffs that crumbled under me, and having to pull be back up like that, that wasn’t easy,” he said. “They could’ve hurt their bodies just as well as I did. They are heroes. They saved my life, and I am forever grateful.”

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