LOCALOrange County

Newport Beach lifeguard drowns in rescue try

Swimming

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, somber fire officials announced during an evening news conference. They had been frantically searching for him after he disappeared under 10-foot waves while trying to rescue a swimmer in distress, authorities said. As Carlson, 32, reached the swimmer, they were hit by the waves; the swimmer made it back to shore, but the lifeguard 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.

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter at @csaillant2

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