Los Angeles Man Falls to His Death at Rindge Dam

A recovery team member descends into the Rindge Dam.

A Los Angeles man has been identified as the victim who fell to his death at the Rindge Dam in Malibu Canyon on Sunday, June 7.

Malibu Search and Rescue (MSAR) received a call at noon Sunday that a young man had either jumped or fell from the top of the dam in Malibu Canyon. The victim never resurfaced after the fall of at least 60 feet. Two helicopters were deployed along with MSAR, LA County Fire Department, the LA County Sheriff’s Department, California State Parks and LA County Lifeguards. After five hours, the body of the victim—identified as 26-year-old Ruben Melgarejo from Los Angeles—was recovered 20 feet underwater. It was not known whether the victim was injured before he fell. An autopsy was scheduled for June 9.

An online fundraiser page has been started by Carlos Melgarejo, who wrote he was Ruben’s brother. “We have lost one of our own, a family member and a friend. He has passed away,” the fundraiser page stated. “He was taken away from us too soon … He will always be loved and missed.”

MSAR Team Leader David Katz pointed out the area is supposed to be off-limits to hikers, but that “numerous people are usually down there on the weekends, even though it’s a closed location. It’s closed because of this exact reason, but it hasn’t stopped people from finding their way down there and going in to jump in the water.”

Its popularity has exploded over recent years with people posting photos and videos of themselves on social media, pictured among spectacular scenery and leaping from steep edges to water below. Those posts often entice others to do the same. 

“We don’t have a lot of rescue calls there, but when we do, a lot of times they end up with very bad results,” Katz stated.

Posted signs near the dam say it is a closed area. According to Katz, because of numerous access points, it would be nearly impossible to gate off. Those who trespass into the dam area can be cited by California State Parks with a fine as high as $250. 

California State Parks Angeles District Supervisor Craig Sap said in response to the number of people who discovered the area through social media, numerous signs were posted several years ago stating the area is off-limits. But that does not stop droves from coming out to hike. 

“They largely park at Tapia-Piuma and walk down through the tunnel,” Sap described. “The number of people is incredible. You see people on social media videotape themselves. It was getting to the point where it was a dangerous activity.”

According to Sap, the closure signs are constantly being removed. “We continually put them up and they continually get ripped down, but there is a sign there that says, ‘AREA CLOSED,” he described.

In addition to safety threats, Sap said, trespassers have been known to cause damage to the protected land in Malibu Canyon, so much so that danger was only “half the issue.” 

“The other half was the resource damage—the amount of trash and human waste that was being left there,” Sap said. “My concern was the City of Malibu and a lot of people downstream because of the pollution it was going to cause. Once we closed it, we brought in volunteer groups and cleared out 20 bags of trash and hazardous materials.”

Sap said California State Parks tries to strictly enforce the no hiking near the dam rule. Hundreds of tickets have been written to violators. 

“Anybody walking down Malibu Canyon from Piuma parking lot—we assume are going to Rindge Dam and we turn them around,” the supervisor said. “We fine them.”

Editor’s note: The victim was estimated to have fallen at least 60 feet. An earlier version of this story provided an incorrect distance. It has been updated with correct information.