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Safety concerns spur repair of cliff-top San Pedro fence

The barrier is in the park where the body of Mario Danelo, a USC kicker, was found.

January 13, 2007|Deborah Schoch | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles city parks workers fenced a gap in a cliff-top fence at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro this week amid safety concerns prompted by the Jan. 6 death of USC field goal kicker Mario Danelo.

But preventing future falls and suicides at the steep oceanfront cliffs may be impossible, unless high fencing is installed across large sections of the rocky coastline, some city officials and residents say.

"We feel we have fencing where it's feasible and adequate signage," city parks spokeswoman Jane Kolb said Friday. "You can't keep people from ignoring warnings."

The body of Danelo, 21, a San Pedro native and son of Joe Danelo, a former NFL kicker, was found on Jan. 7 at the bottom of a Point Fermin cliff. Police say the case is being treated as a possible accident or suicide. His funeral was Friday.

The small gap that workers sealed Thursday is not directly above where Danelo's body was found but is in another area of the park, where a tall metal fence and a concrete balustrade run parallel, just east of the lighthouse. A makeshift path between the two fences, marked by multiple shoeprints, leads directly to the edge of the cliff. The city installed chain-link fencing at the path's mouth after it was reported in The Times and park workers reviewed the area, a spokesman said.

But the cliff's edge remains unfenced in nearby areas, and youths, hikers and "slope glider" model plane hobbyists can be seen each weekend on the ocean side of park fencing.

"Human nature or human folly: People are going to find a way to go over or around the fence," said Doug Epperhart of San Pedro, president of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council. "We know that when a helicopter's hovering, someone's gone off the cliff."

Los Angeles City Council members Janice Hahn, a San Pedro resident, and Tom LaBonge, who heads the committee overseeing parks, did not return calls Friday afternoon.

The Department of Recreation and Parks doesn't keep an official tally of deaths at the cliffs, and various agencies respond to accidents and suicides, making an exact count difficult.

Publicity surrounding Danelo's death has stirred fears among glider enthusiasts that it could prompt stricter rules at the park, known as a prime glider site because of the way winds converge there.

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