Dad Shocked His Experienced Lifeguard Son Would Drown During Rescue

It is the first time in 100 years that Newport Beach lost a lifeguard in the line of duty.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.
Originally posted at 8:21 p.m. July 6, 2014. Edited with new details.

Ben Carlson, a Newport Beach lifeguard since he was 17 years old, drowned trying to save a swimmer on Sunday. The 32-year-old man is the first lifeguard lost in the line of duty in Newport Beach in 100 years.

At about 5 p.m., Carlson went into the water and reached a swimmer who got into trouble in the area of 16th Street when they were hit by 10-foot waves, according to Newport Beach Fire Department Chief Scott Poster. The swimmer made it back safely, Poster said.

Carlson, however, disappeared. Jennifer Manzella, public information officer with the Newport Beach Police Department, said about 25 people were in the water searching for at least 90 minutes, and 30 others searched along the shore. Air support flew overhead. They were unable to find him because of the "turbulent water."

He was found in the water shortly after 8 p.m. and pulled aboard a boat but could not be resuscitated.

"He just loved being out on the water, he loved the opportunity to help people," his father, Chris Carlson, told the Associated Press. "He was a water monster — that was one of the things that was so unbelievable to us; a lowly 10-foot wave would take him out because he was so experienced."

The chief said rescuers gathered together after Carlson's body was recovered to console each other. The lifeguards, 80 of whom were on duty throughout the day, rescued about 200 people from the waters that day, according to Rob Williams, the city's chief lifeguard, and they issued 3,000 warnings to people. 

About 100,000 people visited the beach that day. 

- City News Service

Ava July 07, 2014 at 11:24 AM
This story breaks our heart. We could see the waves breaking from our house a mile away. People visiting that particular stretch of beach, as well as, the wedge have no idea how dangerous they waves are. Swimmers should not be allowed to enter the water when the surf is that strong. A wonderful young mans's life was unnecessarily taken. We are deeply sorry for this tragic accident. ✨🙏✨
Penny Arévalo July 07, 2014 at 12:24 PM
I spent the day at Laguna Beach and the waves were treacherous. The lifeguards kept kicking people out of the water, but they kept going back in.
Sallie July 07, 2014 at 01:53 PM
So sad. My heart goes out to his family and friends. What a brave man, he died doing his job trying to save another.
lwmc23 July 08, 2014 at 03:48 PM
I know two people who were left paralyzed by a wave. One was a high cervical injury which left him ventilator dependent. Its possible this is what happened to this young man. Very sad and my condolences to his family and friends
hf2hvit July 08, 2014 at 07:07 PM
It doesn't matter who you are. The ocean is bigger than you. I'm sorry for your loss.


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