UPDATE, 3/26: The body of a woman discovered at Fort Funston Monday morning has been identified as that of Kyra Sunshine Scarlet, a 22-year-old who went missing after a Feb. 22 landslide engulfed her, her dog, and a friend. Both the dog and her friend survived.
“It is with sorrow and joy that we are able to announce that our beloved ‘mermaid’ Kyra Sunshine has been recovered,” her family said in a statement. “Just as we were starting to come to grips our loss of our beloved daughter, sister, aunt, niece and friend we got this bittersweet news.”
Emergency teams raced against the rising tide and suffocating weight of sand when Scarlet was reported missing but were unable to find her. They “exhausted all possible actions,” an official from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area stated, adding that it was highly likely Scarlet’s body had been carried out to sea on the high tide. In the weeks since the incident, a GoFundMe has raised nearly $10,000 to allow Scarlet’s family to travel and continue the search.
Sadly, Scarlet’s death is hardly the first to occur at Fort Funston. The popular dog destination has steep, 100-foot cliffs in many places, with narrow trails that wind along the edges. Dogs are constantly getting stuck on the cliffs, and emergency personnel frequently rush to the scene to prevent distraught owners from injuring themselves by going after them.
Last year San Francisco Fire Department spokesperson Jonathan Baxter told SF Weekly that rescues were increasing. Twenty-two people were rescued by SFFD in 2016, 41 in 2017, and another 20 in 2018. The instances, Baxter said, tend to fall into two main categories: people trying to rescue dogs that have fallen, or those that ignore barriers and safety messaging.
Scarlet’s death doesn’t appear to fall into either of those categories, though Fort Funston has a long history of erosion. And in the wake of this most recent death, some are asking what else can be done to better protect park-goers. While Fort Funston has ample signs along its paved trails on top of the cliffs, its small dirt footpaths are unmarked, and there are no signs at all marking trails that lead from the beach up the side of the cliff.
Soon, however, this may change. Fire commissioners voted earlier this month to urge Mayor London Breed to establish a Safe Coast Task Force, to examine solutions for the numerous cliff-related rescues, injuries, and fatalities that occur each year.
It’s not just for the victims. “There are at least nine separate local, state, and federal agencies that have some level of jurisdiction along the San Francisco coastline and each time any member of these agencies responds to a cliff or marine rescue their members are exposed to significant risk or injury,” the commission’s resolution reads.
The Task Force has yet to be formed, but if the mayor approves it could include members from SFFD, the San Francisco Police Department, the Recreation and Parks Department, the San Francisco Youth Commission, California Highway Patrol, and the United States Coast Guard.