UC Santa Barbara alumnus Jacob Parker fell 50 feet from a cliff and died shortly after on Saturday, April 20. He was the 14th person to die in a cliff fatality in the past 20 years and the second to die in the past year following another cliff fatality in the summer.

An unidentified adult male fell from a bluff on Saturday, April 20. He died while being transported to a hospital. Photo courtesy Scott Safechuck

The 23-year-old lived in San Diego, California, and graduated from UCSB in 2023. He returned to Isla Vista for the University’s All Gaucho Reunion weekend. 

On Saturday afternoon, Parker tripped over a barrier fence on the balcony of 6625 Del Playa Drive and fell down the cliff. After an emergency service call was phoned at 2:35 p.m., he was carried from the beach, up the Camino Pescadero stairs, and transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. He died en route, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

“We’ve all been rattled the last couple of days,” a tenant of the oceanside residence, who wished to remain anonymous, said. He noted that when parties are hosted on the balcony, he and his housemates often have to grab people when they get too close to the balcony edge.

At the residence, the cliffside fence reached about 4 feet. The property owner, from Meridian Company, had not pursued a city permit to raise the fence heights per Santa Barbara County 2nd District Supervisor Laura Capps’ safety plan recommendation. Past fencing had scaled over 4 feet before ownership changed to a former landlord three years ago, the tenant said. Capps told the Nexus she called and sent a letter to Meridian Company about this property’s fence height.

According to the tenant, the property owner said they would pursue raising the fence height following the incident. Meridian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’m just angry and deeply saddened over what could’ve been prevented. It only makes me more determined to work harder and sound the alarm bell even more to make these bluffs even safer,” Capps said. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare coming true.”

Capps noted that though she has reached out to every cliffside property, a majority of them have not made efforts to raise fence heights. She also raised concern over worsening cliff erosion increasing the frequency of cliff accidents.

“There’s many factors that go into these accidents but, clearly, if that fence had been raised, this wouldn’t have happened,” she said.

The last cliff decedent was Benny Schurmer, a 19-year-old from Ojai, California. He also fell from a cliffside balcony with a 4-foot-tall fence that was managed by Meridian Company. Benny Schurmer’s mom, Katherine Schurmer, expressed condolences to Parker’s family.

“This is something we have to live with for the rest of our life. And I just can’t believe that it’s still happening,” Schurmer said. “I thought Benny was the last one. I hate that it happened. But if he, for some reason, if he could be the one to make the change, that would be great.”

Isla Vista Community Services District General Manager Jonathan Abboud said cliff incidents like Parker’s continue to emphasize how important their education campaign on cliff safety is.

“We share our deepest sympathies with the family and friends of the young man who passed away. The University cares deeply about the safety of our students. We make great efforts to educate all our students, beginning at orientation, about the risks of severe and life-threatening injuries that can occur as a result of a fall,” University spokesperson Kiki Reyes said in a statement to the Nexus. 

“Cliff safety is included in the Gaucho Guide as well as GauchoFYI, which is mandatory for all incoming students.”

Parker’s friends and family organized a GoFundMe for his memorial and has raised over $30,000 of a $45,000 goal as of April 23. They are still accepting donations. 

“Jake changed lives in his own way, as a loving son, caring sibling, loyal friend, proud UCSB graduate, sharp entrepreneur, avid Bay Area sports fan, model of health, and a prolific lover of music, so much so that he started successfully running live music events. This wound may never heal, and we refuse to let his memory diminish over time. We will love and miss you forever Jacob Parker, rest easy knowing that you could not have made the world any better of a place with the time you had on Earth,” the GoFundMe said.

A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the April 25, 2024 edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at lizzyrager@dailynexus.com