PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A rockslide trapped as many as a dozen people at the Oceanside Tunnel Saturday morning, forcing an emergency plan to rescue them before an incoming tide arrived.
The rockslide happened around 10:45 a.m. at the south opening, the Netarts-Oceanside Fire District posted on their Facebook page. Emergency responders were sent to rescue people trapped on the north side of the tunnel.
Officials put a plan into motion to get those people out of the south opening in an area about 3 feet in diameter. Each person was removed safely one-at-a-time to the Oceanside beach in about 25 minutes.
The Oregon State Parks closed the tunnel access until further notice.
A witness reported hearing tumbling rocks about 15 minutes before the big collapse
The rockslide sent chunks of rock down the steep cliffs over Oceanside Beach, cutting off the pathway of those exploring Tunnel Beach on the other side.
“The slide came down and partially blocked the tunnel,” Park Ranger Travis Korbe told KOIN 6 News. “It was a very loud experience, I’m told, when the rocks came down. They described it as a waterfall of rocks, the sound that was coming out of the hillside here.”
Tunnel Beach is surrounded by cliffs and doesn’t have an easy trail out except for the blocked tunnel. Korbe said 10-12 people were stuck with tides coming in that could eventually submerge the beach.
“The tide was incoming, so Netarts Fire and Rescue, they did talk to the Coast Guard and had them on standby in case they were needed to come help,” Korbe said.
While some people climbed a cliffside to get out, search and rescue crews determined the tunnel was still intact and helped others out the 3-foot space that remained at the entrance.
“They brought them through one at a time, put a helmet on,” he said. “There is still some loose rock coming down so they put helmets on everyone and brought them through the little gap that is still there on the tunnel.”
Even though everyone got out safely there is still a danger in this area as rocks continue to fall off ledges from above.
Korbe said the Oregon coast is a very dynamic environment and reminds people to be aware of their surroundings.
“We have layers of rock on top of sandstone soft layers of soil. I don’t know the dynamics that caused the slide today but nature and geology is ever changing. Even though it looks like everything is permanent, it could change.”