'Utter Tragedy': Swimmer Survives, Lifeguard Dies

Ben Carlson, 32, is first Newport Beach lifeguard to die in line of duty
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2014 9:14 AM CDT
'Utter Tragedy': Swimmer Survives, Lifeguard Dies
A Newport Beach, California, police officer keeps an eye on the surf.   (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Ken Steinhardt)

A veteran California lifeguard who spent nearly half his life saving swimmers in Newport Beach died yesterday during a rescue attempt. Ben Carlson, 32, who KTLA reports had been a local lifeguard for 15 years, dove into tumultuous 10-foot waves around 5pm to help a man in distress. Carlson reached the swimmer, but a giant wave knocked them both under the water. The swimmer reemerged and made it back to shore; Carlson did not, reports the Los Angeles Times.

At least 25 rescuers joined the search for Carlson, which was stymied by surf that Newport Beach Fire Chief Scott Poster said may have measured as high as 12 feet. His body wasn't recovered for three hours, according to local officials, and he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. "It's just an utter tragedy to lose a man of that caliber in the water today," Poster said during a press conference, according to NBC Los Angeles. Poster added that Carlson's death was even more devastating because he was the first Newport Beach lifeguard to die in the line of duty—over a span of time stretching some 100 years. "It’s a brotherhood that’s very difficult to describe," Poster said. Carlson "will be given all the honor and respect that comes with losing a member of that brotherhood." (Also in California, a swimmer was bit by a great white on Saturday.)

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