A 15-year veteran lifeguard drowned while attempting to rescue a swimmer in distress near the Newport Beach pier on Sunday.
Ben Carlson, 32, was pulled from the water after a nearly three-hour search, according to the Daily Mail. He had just reached the struggling swimmer when 10-foot-high waves hit the pair, taking them underwater. The swimmer made it back to shore, but Carlson never made it back.
Newport Beach Fire Department Chief Scott Poster explained what happened in a news conference.
“After he successfully contacted the man, both of them were hit by a large wave. The other lifeguard personnel at the scene attempted to rescue and assist Ben, but were unable to find him because of the turbulent water.”
San Diego lifeguards had warned earlier in the week that ocean rip currents were expected to be particularly strong over the Fourth of July weekend. Over the same weekend last year, lifeguards made 423 rescues.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Carlson’s death marks the first time in 100 years that a Newport Beach lifeguard died while on duty.
Poster told the Times that Carlson was a lifeguard who would “give the shirt off his back at any time. He was there to help at every single moment.”
“It’s an utter tragedy to lose a man of that caliber,” he said.