A Chicago-area graduate student fell to her death while visiting a sister in San Diego. Chicago Tribune reporter Rosemary Sobol discusses the story. (Posted on January 14, 2014).

A Chicago graduate student was killed when she lost her balance and fell from a cliff while taking pictures in San Diego over the weekend, authorities said.

Anna Bachman, 25, was visiting her sister and taking pictures at sunset Sunday when she lost her footing and plunged 100 to 150 feet onto massive sandstone rocks below, according to family and San Diego Police Officer Edward Zwibel.

"She was tragically posing for a picture when she backed up too far and lost her balance and fell down the cliff," Zwibel said. "It certainly is a sad scenario."

Bachman was working on a master's degree in urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said Sam Hostettler, a school spokesman. She began her studies in the fall of 2012 and was enrolled to take 12 hours in the upcoming spring semester, said Hostettler.

"She was an excellent student," said Hostettler.

Her father Richard Bachman said the California native had graduated from the University of California Berkeley and had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for three years.

"Anna would put a hand out and help who ever needed it," said Bachman. "She had a great smile and great sense of humor."

He said his daughter had scheduled to spend winter break with her older sister Gail in San Diego and was looking forward to the trip and the warm temperatures as a break from the Chicago winter.

Bachman said his daughter's flight to San Diego kept getting delayed and she managed to get one of the last flights out of Chicago on Wednesday.

"It's not natural...you're not supposed to bury your children," said Bachman. "This is all so surreal."

He said Anna and Gail were very close and were his only two children.

"Her sister was with her at the accident, it's equally hard for her sister," said Bachman. "They were great friends and they loved one another."

Bachman said the master's program was to take about two years but she had planned to stay in the Chicago area after receiving her degree.

He said she had hoped to land a job with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. According to a bank spokeswoman, Bachman had served as an intern there since the summer and was expected back to work on Tuesday.

She would rave to her family about how well the city operated and looked forward to being able to work in city government to help people, her father recalled.

"She loved Chicago, she was planning to stay there," said Bachman. "It was a well-run city in her mind. She was learning to love (the weather)."

Police received 911 calls at 5:19 p.m. Sunday about a female who had fallen down the cliff onto the rocks below. Police, fire rescue units and the lifeguard unit responded to the scene, known as Sunset Cliffs, Zwibel said.

"There were a number of people around" who saw the incident and tried to help her, including someone who tried CPR, but she was dead on the scene, according to Zwibel. "She was then hoisted by the rescue personnel a short time later,'' Zwibel said.

Chain-link fences and cement blocks are erected, but visitors "can still get to the edge" if they really want to, he said.

"It’s a beautiful place and there's lots of cliff-side sunsets right here and it was right around that time of day as well."

Zwibel said there have been falls at that location before.

"We've had other incidents where potential suicidal persons or vehicles driving over the cliff because it's literally miles of sandstone bluff,"’ he said.

Signs are posted that read: "Beware of cliffs," "Warning" and "Unstable cliffs,'' the officer said. "There's a lot of signage but people still want to get that photo.''

csadovi@tribune | Twitter: @csadovi

rsobol@tribune.com | Twitter: @RosemarySobol1