Memorial statue of late lifeguard Ben Carlson to be unveiled Wednesday in Newport


When a 9-foot-tall stainless-steel likeness of fallen Newport Beach lifeguard Ben Carlson is unveiled Wednesday night, it will culminate a two-year journey for his family and a community that was deeply affected by his loss on July 6, 2014.

The Ben Carlson Memorial Statue, made of marine-grade stainless steel, will be installed in McFadden Square near the Newport Pier, just steps from the Benjamin M. Carlson Lifeguard Headquarters, named in his honor in 2015.

The statue will depict Carlson clutching a rescue tube and fins in his left hand while his right hand shades his eyes as he gazes toward the ocean. Once the statue is mounted on its pedestal, it will reach a height of 11 feet.

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“The concept behind the design was to create a stoic and iconic figure overlooking the water that Ben so proudly protected for 15 years,” the Ben Carlson Memorial and Scholarship Foundation states on its website. “We hope that this statue will forever be a reminder of the respect that the ocean ahead deserves.”

The sculpture’s long journey to completion began with Carlson’s death exactly two years before the date of its unveiling.

Four days after Carlson turned 32, he was aboard a rescue boat when he received a call that a swimmer was stuck in 6- to 8-foot surf. Carlson jumped off the boat and swam toward the man, but a large wave slammed them underwater.

The swimmer made it safely to shore, but Carlson did not. After a three-hour search, his body was found near the Newport Pier. He was the first Newport Beach lifeguard to die in the line of duty in the department’s nearly 100-year history.

His death resonated in a city with deep ties to its waterfront.

His family and friends formed the Benjamin Carlson Memorial & Scholarship Foundation to promote awareness of ocean safety and raise money for college scholarships.

The group also came up with the idea to build a statue in Carlson’s honor. Dozens of local families and businesses contributed funds to help create the statue.

Carlson’s family, friends, fellow lifeguards and Newport Beach city officials will gather in McFadden Square at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to unveil the statue, which was designed by Carlson’s brother-in-law Jake Janz using 3-D printing technology.

“It will not only be a tribute to Ben’s heroism,” the foundation says, “but it will also serve as a symbol of respect to lifeguards everywhere.”


Hannah Fry,

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN