NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A Newport Beach lifeguard drowned Sunday rescuing a man who got caught up in rough surf.
The lifeguard was identified as 32-year-old Ben Carlson, a 15-year veteran of the department.
Carlson entered the water about 5 p.m., near 16th Street, to rescue a man who got overtaken by rough water about 6-8 feet deep.
While making the rescue, Carlson was also overtaken by the rough rip tide.
After being hit by a huge wave, Carlson went down and was not seen again until about 8 p.m.
Carlson was pulled from the water near the Newport Beach Pier at 72 McFadden Place.
Newport Beach Fire Chief Scott Poster made the sad announcement at a news briefing Sunday evening.
“Today, it’s with deep sorrow,” Poster said, “that the Newport Beach Fire Department announces the on-duty death of one of our own.”
The Sunday tragedy was the first time in the department’s 100 year history that a lifeguard died in the line of duty.
Rescue crews made a desperate and heroic effort, including a foot-by-foot search between jetties and a chain of human divers, to save the life of their colleague.
More than 25 people took part in the search, Poster said.
The man Carlson helped rescue is fine, authorities said.
Carlson was taken to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach after paramedics desperately worked at resuscitating him.
He was declared dead at the hospital, authorities said.
KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo said family members and fellow lifeguards were visibly shaken and distraught with many of them overcome with emotion.
As the ambulance carrying his body left the pier, there was a deep show of respect by colleagues who saluted in admiration and grief.
Poster called Carlson “one of the good guys who was always smiling.”
Fajardo said Carlson was very popular among beachgoers — he often warned them about treacherous surf.
Poster said hundreds of people were rescued over the weekend.