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January 13, 2014
Woman rescued from cliff fall by former pro surfer
By Shanna Mccord
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Longtime Santa Cruz resident Vince Collier was getting his fishing gear ready on some tide pools along West Cliff Drive when he heard a cry that sounded like a baby otter.
The cry came and went for a few minutes until Collier, a former professional surfer who grew up in a house on West Cliff Drive, realized the sound was an injured woman stuck on a rock ledge about 100 feet from his fishing spot.
Collier, a strong, barrel-chested man who knows the area well, scrambled through the surf line and over some rocks to reach the woman who had fallen 30 feet from the cliff.
The fall happened about 7:42 p.m. on Jan. 3. The darkness of night didn't help matters, said Collier, who had a LED light with him for fishing.
The woman, who wore denim from top to bottom, was hard to spot on the rocks, he said.
"I put my pole down because it sounds like someone is screaming for help," Collier, 53, said on Sunday as he described his role in helping the Los Gatos woman. "She was in and out of consciousness."
Collier said he climbed back up to West Cliff Drive to direct folks gathered in a parking lot near Merced Street to call 911 while he returned to help stabilize the woman until rescuers from the Santa Cruz Fire Department arrived.
Fire officials said the tide was close to cresting on the rocks when they found the woman.
Collier said the tide was rising fast and he feared the woman would be swept out to sea.
"I'm sure she wouldn't survive if I weren't there," he said. "In another 45 minutes she would have been washed out and drowned."
Three rescue swimmers were deployed down the cliff to protect the woman from large waves.
Additional crews set up a retrieval system with ropes and a ladder to bring the woman up to the street.
It took firefighters about 30 minutes to bring the woman up the cliff. She was flown to a trauma hospital with numerous injuries, including broken teeth and busted ribs.
Collier kept the woman's head and neck from moving and covered her with his jacket.
"If I hadn't of been there, she would of died," he said. "No question in my mind."
Collier said he helped to rescue a couple of boogie boarders in the early 1980s from the ocean along West Cliff Drive. He and a friend pulled the boarders in after they got stuck in the ocean and couldn't find their way back through the darkness.