A lifeguard drowned Sunday evening while attempting to save a swimmer’s life in large and treacherous surf off Newport Beach, California.
Ben Carlson, 32, was pronounced dead soon after being pulled from the ocean at 8 p.m. City officials said it was the first on-duty fatality in the 100-plus years of Newport Beach lifeguards.
Giant waves and swift rip currents created dangerous conditions Sunday on Southern California’s south-facing beaches, which were packed with tourists enjoying the last day of the July 4 holiday weekend.
Carlson, a lifeguard for 15 years, entered the water just after 5 p.m. to rescue a swimmer imperiled by turbulent conditions near 16th Street.
The swimmer ultimately made it to shore, but Carlson, who was slammed by a large wave, was pulled underwater and disappeared, prompting a frantic three-hour search involving multiple agencies.
Hope faded as the hours passed. Carlson’s body was discovered shortly before nightfall, near the Newport Beach pier.
He was pronounced dead at nearby Hoag Hospital. The Orange County coroner’s office scheduled an autopsy to determine the precise cause of death.
Said Newport Beach Fire Chief Scott Poster, at a Sunday night news briefing:
“Today it is with deep sorrow that the Newport Beach Fire Department announces the on-duty death of one of our own.
“Ben was a well-respected individual. He was there to help at every single moment … It was a tragedy to lose a man of that caliber today.”
More than 30 people, including divers and airborne crews, were involved in the search for Carlson.
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