A 15-year veteran of the Newport Beach Lifeguards last evening became the first city lifeguard to die in the line of duty.
That same morning, at the dog beach at the Santa Ana River mouth, I'd wondered, with the large waves crashing into shore, why so many surfboards (and surfers) remained on the beach. Turns out there were dangerous rip-current conditions along the coast, more of which is forecasted for today.
Carlson noticed a swimmer in distress in 6- to 8-foot surf and, as he is trained to do, dove in shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday. The 32-year-old lifeguard made contact with the unidentified man just as a large wave hit both. The swimmer was successfully pulled from the ocean and made a full recovery, but Carlson momentarily disappeared.
"The other lifeguard personnel at the scene attempted to rescue and assist Ben, but--due to the turbulent water conditions--they were unable to do so," says Jennifer Manzella, the Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman, in a statement.
"Members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol, Laguna Beach Lifeguards, State Parks personnel, and the Newport Beach Police Department helicopter joined Lifeguard and Fire staff in the search for Ben. In all, 25 individuals conducted a search in the water, supported by 30 others on shore (including City Manager Dave Kiff) and air support."
Carlson was eventually located around 8 p.m. and rushed by Newport Beach paramedics to Hoag Hospital, where he died. Cause of death is presumed to be drowning, but the county coroner is conducting an autopsy to make that official.
City officials say Carlson is the first lifeguard to die in the line of duty in the history of Newport Beach Lifeguards. His chief told reporters this morning Carlson will be afforded all the honors of someone who belongs to that storied "brotherhood."