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SBCC student identified in fatal Isla Vista cliff fall over Labor Day weekend

Another fatal cliff fall in Isla Vista prompts students, parents, and graduates to calls for safety measures
Tracy Lehr / KEYT

ISLA VISTA, Calif.- Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office identifies City College student, 19-year-old Benjamin Scott Schurmer of Ojai, as the person who fell forty feet into the surf below where students tried to revive him Saturday night.

It happened along the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive near a house on the cliff next to Walter Capps Park.

A Memorial Fund for Schurmer has been set up here.

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Laura Capps responded to the incident with the following statement:

"My heart breaks for the family and friends of the student whose life was tragically cut short along the cliffs of Isla Vista on Saturday night. I join with the many Isla Vista neighbors as well as the Santa Barbara City College and UCSB community who share in the deep pain of the loss of a young person whose bright future was before him," said Capps, "One death along these bluffs is one too many – and we have had far too many. Enough is enough: cliff safety must be the driving factor. I will continue to push for protective fencing and other safety measures as well as redoubling the educational efforts led by the Isla Vista Community Service District and others. These bluffs pose a real danger to people’s lives -- it is time for common sense safety solutions."

Former Irvine, California Mayor Beth Krom has been speaking out since her son Noah fell to his death at the age of 22 just days before his UCSB graduation.

"How many more young people are going to lose there lives on the cliffs in Isla Vista? We lost our son Noah in 2009 and there have been a number of young people how have died since that time. " said Krom, "After Noah's death I tried so hard to get the political officials and the property owners and the people in the Sheriff's Department and other stakeholders to come together to find a solution that would help preserve life and protect the health and safety of students at UCSB who are living in Isla Vista. It is time for that kind of effort. I hope that this will now catalyze the community into doing something that should have been done already."

Krom worked with former UCSB Associated Student Public Safety Commission Chair Molly Morrison Busch to fight for a fence.

"My heart and thoughts are with this individual's family and friends. I am sure this person had so much to look forward to in their lives and had a really bright future ahead. I know that we are all mourning that loss of life and potential," said Busch.

The UCSB grad recalls losing three friends.

During my time at UCSB I lost a wonderful childhood friend of mine to a cliff fall while she was visiting the UCSB campus, soon thereafter I realized that fatal cliff falls were far from an isolated incident. Two other friends, both UCSB students had fallen to their deaths within a span of only two years and those were only the people I knew."

She is refering to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Student Giselle Ayala,18, who died in 2013 and Sierra Markee-Winkler, 20, who died in 2014 and David Propp, 21, in 2012.

The Daily Nexas reported another death in 2005 when Santa Barbara City College student Tyler VonRuden, 22, died.

Last April UCSB alumni Chasen Alibrando, 25, of Santa Monica fell to his death along the 6000 block of Del Playa Drive. He had been returning for a reunion with with friends.

"Meeting and being with the families of those who lost their children in such a senseless way gave me a window into what inexplicable grief must feel and look like, these experiences and feelings still haunt me today."

Krom and Busch fought for fencing.

"Fighting for a fence almost 10 years ago during my time at UCSB actually meant fighting for initial fencing on publicly owned property along the cliffs edge that I still feel is inadequate."

Students agree since students can easily climb over and sit on the current wooden fence.

Some posts near the latest fall are hanging off he eroded cliff.

As students hugged and grieved together on Labor Day they tried to brainstorm on ways to make it safe.

They suggested a higher fence, moving the fence away from the edge and something that could catch a person to prevent a fall.

"Any fight to increase safety of fencing on privately owned homes on the receding cliff edges was a losing battle. I can imagine it may still feel so, however the work to improve Isla Vista and cliff safety education continued well after I graduated in 2015, " said Busch.

Incoming UCSB students are warned about the dangers.

"New UCSB students learn about cliff safety during their mandatory Gaucho FYI program during their first weeks at school," said Busch, "I can only hope that the issues of inadequate fencing, education for UCSB and non UCSB Santa Barbara area students and general safety stay at the forefront and aren't ignored by those we entrust and elect."

She said she hopes the what happened can be a catalyst for good and she looks forward to helping in any she can.

Students had a number of theories about how the young man fell but as of Monday night nothing had been confirmed by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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