Officials say Newport Beach lifeguard drowns while attempting rescue

A Newport Beach lifeguard drowned Sunday during a rescue attempt near the city's pier. Officials said it was the first time a city lifeguard had died in the line of duty.

Ben Carlson, a 15-year veteran Newport Beach lifeguard, was pulled from the ocean by colleagues, officials announced during an evening news conference. They had been frantically searching for him after he disappeared under 10-foot waves while attempting to rescue a swimmer, authorities said. As Carlson, 32, reached the swimmer, both were hit by the waves; the swimmer made it back to shore, but Carlson disappeared.

The loss shocked the close-knit public safety department in Newport Beach.


"It's been a very difficult time," said police Sgt. Penny Freeman.

Newport Beach has experienced dangerous rip currents since Friday, and lifeguards have been busy during the holiday weekend making rescues, Freeman said. There was another near-drowning earlier Sunday, she said.

Carlson "was in the water to effect a rescue and had some distress at that time," Freeman said. More details will be forthcoming as the investigation into what happened gets underway, she said.

Newport Beach Fire Chief Scott Post said Carlson entered the water just after 5 p.m. Lifeguards located him about 8 p.m. and delivered him to waiting paramedics on the pier. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

It was a tragic ending to what had been a crowded and sunny weekend at one of Southern California's most picturesque coastlines. Twitter quickly filled with condolences.

"Not the news I was hopeful for,'' tweeted @mollychance.

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