UCSB junior business economics major Jeffrey Cronin will spend his 21st birthday tomorrow in the hospital after sustaining severe injuries in a fall off the cliffs at 6599 Del Playa Dr. on Tuesday morning.
At about 1 a.m., authorities responded to a call that Cronin had fallen off the 50-foot cliff and landed on the rocky beach. Cronin broke both femurs and severely injured his head in the fall. At press time, he was in critical condition at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.
“When he was contacted, he was laying faced down. He appeared to have suffered severe injuries, but he was breathing on his own,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Jim Dollar said.
Cronin’s blood alcohol level was recorded at .39, which is almost five times the legal limit. Junior business economics major Collin Rooke, a roommate of Cronin’s, said he witnessed the fall.
“So, he hops over a little wooden white fence [on the balcony] that had tile further out. He lands there, and manages to hang on with his fingers on the tile, and there was a little divot of dirt that he had his feet on. He’s all giddy and doesn’t think he’s going to fall,” Rooke said.
“He had just taken four shots. He was hanging, and two guys were trying to get him up. I’m hanging back because I hate when kids do things like this. They were pulling him up, and his torso was over and his ass was up. He said, ‘Wait, wait, you’re gonna ruin the whole thing.’ He was doing pull-ups, and all of a sudden he lost his grip and plummeted down.
“I ran to call 911 and just started praying. The two guys that were next to him hopped the fence and got down there in a second,” Rooke said.
Rooke said he wished he could have helped his friend.
“I think he had blacked out. He didn’t know what he was doing. He needed someone to [just] say ‘chill.’ If I could have grabbed him – I should have – but he’d never do that. He was blacked out. He didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
Matt Maland, a Santa Barbara City College student and friend of Cronin’s who also saw the accident, said the fall took everyone by surprise. “No one [inside] believed it,” he said.
Maland said he was the first one to run down to the beach while Rooke called the authorities. The Foot Patrol arrived about one minute after they were reached, he said.
“I jumped over the fence [to the beach access] and ran down the stairs. … [Cronin] was face down, so I turned his head to the side,” he said. “We say we live in a bubble and there is no reality to it, but something like this happens and it hits home.”
Cronin underwent reconstructive surgeries to both legs yesterday afternoon. Rooke said he expects his friend will fully recover, despite the severity of the accident.
“He lucked out, the way he fell. He fell on rocks, but didn’t hit his head. The nurses and doctors working on him said he’s a strong boy, and there’s no reason for him not to have a full recovery on his head and legs,” he said. “They’re doing surgery on his legs, putting pins and rods in his legs. It’s going to take six to nine months to rehabilitate his legs so he can walk again.”
Junior business economics major Travis Vonbartheld, also a roommate of Cronin’s, said his friend, who will turn 21 tomorrow, is lucky to be able to celebrate another birthday.
“A lot of kids in Isla Vista have problems like this. Their friends think it’s all mellow, that they can control themselves. Then a ‘freak accident’ occurs, and they don’t try to stop it, they do the opposite,” he said. “People need to come to the realization that they need to take responsibility for their actions. If they have a problem, they need to go to counseling. If Jeff had talked about what was going on with his drinking, this wouldn’t have happened … I hope he never drinks again.”
-Staff Writers Ted Andersen and Marisa Lagos
also contributed to the story