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Thousands gather for memorial paddle-out for Newport Beach lifeguard

Thousands turn out in Newport Beach for ceremony for lifeguard Ben Carlson
Newport Beach lifeguard Ben Carlson died trying to rescue a struggling swimmer

Thousands gathered in Newport Beach on Sunday morning to honor lifeguard Ben Carlson, who died last week while attempting to rescue a struggling swimmer.

Carlson, 32, jumped into the water from a rescue boat that had responded to save the swimmer who was struggling in 6- to 8-foot waves off the Balboa Peninsula last Sunday. Both men were hit by a large wave in the midst of the rescue attempt.

Other rescuers were able to pull the swimmer out but were not able to rescue Carlson, a 15-year veteran Newport Beach lifeguard.

At Sunday's paddle-out ceremony celebrating Carlson's life and connection to the sea, mourners and supporters gathered at Newport Beach Pier.

Newport Beach city spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said about 5,000 people watched from the pier and shore as about 2,500 people took to boats and boards and made their way out past the breakers, where they formed a circle and chanted, "Ben, Ben, Ben" as they hit the water.

Mourners threw flowers into the water, and those on shore and in the water observed a moment of silence for Carlson, Mazella said.

A second ceremony is planned for Sunday evening at 6:30, on the beach at Orange Street in Newport Beach. There will be parking for attendees at the Hoag Hospital campus, with a shuttle service carrying people to the beach.

People with special needs may contact Newport Beach Fire Department at (949) 644-3106 to arrange for parking accommodations. Attendees are asked to wear casual or Hawaiian-themed attire.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella

 

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