Vigil Held to Honor Lifeguard Who Died in The Line of Duty - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Vigil Held to Honor Lifeguard Who Died in The Line of Duty

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Newport Beach, CA -

(FOX 11 / AP) A lifeguard drowned while trying to rescue a swimmer off a Southern California beach, authorities said.Ben Carlson, 32, was pulled from the water around 8:00p.m. PDT by fellow lifeguards following a frantic, three-hour search, Newport Beach Fire Department Chief Scott Poster said.

Poster said the 15-year department veteran went into the water Sunday to help a struggling swimmer when they were hit by a large wave. Carlson went under water, and the swimmer made it to shore safely. Poster said searchers were hampered by up to 12-foot swells.

"It was just an utter tragedy to lose a man of that caliber in the water today," the chief said, noting that it was the first time a city lifeguard died in the line of duty.

"Ben was a well-respected individual, always a nice guy, always was there to help somebody," Poster said. "He'd give his shirt off his back at anytime."

The National Weather Service had issued a warning Sunday of dangerous rip currents and high surf along Southern California beaches. The weather service said some beaches saw up to 8-feet high surf.

Los Angeles County firefighters rescued a 25-year-old man who was caught in the waves off Rancho Palos Verdes and high tide breached a sand berm in Long Beach.

The lifeguard's death came a day after a 50-year-old long-distance swimmer and former lifeguard was bitten by a shark off Manhattan Beach.

Authorities and witnesses said the 7-foot-long juvenile had been trying to free itself from a fisherman's hook when it lunged at Steven Robles' chest.

The beaches remained open, but police prohibited fishing from the Manhattan Beach pier where the fisherman hooked the shark until Tuesday.

 From Christine O'Donnell:

"There's so much going on out there, huge waves. It's all murky, big riffs," one of Ben Carlson's friend's during a vigil Monday night.

About a hundred people gathered together inside the lifeguard headquarters tonight sharing stories and talking about the hours log search for 32-year-old Ben Carlson after he went under during a rescue in the high surf Sunday evening.

"He was so tough, he was super hard and I was thinking of him out there and he was so vulnerable. When the lifeguards found him. It was a huge victory. So good on you guys," his friend said.

Authorities say Carlson jumped from a lifeguard boat and when he saw a swimmer in trouble. A set of 10-12 foot waves came in during the rescue. The swimmer made it to shore, Ben did not.

A memorial of flowers, pictures and momentos now sits outside the place Ben normally would be. The community calling him their "hero." Ben was a member of the UC Irvine waterpolo team. Julie Schmitz says her brother was on the same team.

"He's the ultimate athlete. He lived in the water. He was constantly surfing and traveling. He's definitely a little fish out there," Schmitz said.

Jose Delajara, worked as a lifeguard with Ben for the past 15 years.

"There's a rescue, he'll be the first one out there. Whether there's a big wave or surf, he'll be the guy. He Didn't hold back and he died doing what he loved, saving lives," Delajara said.

Carlson leaves behind his parents and a 15-year-old sister. Funeral plans are in progress.


From Bob DeCastro:

It is the first time a Newport Beach lifeguard has died in the line of duty in 100 years. 32-year-old Ben Carlson had spent almost half of his life saving lives as a 15 yr veteran Newport Beach lifeguard.

Carlson was on watch Sunday when he spotted a swimmer in trouble around 5 PM near 16th Street. He sprang into action and reached the man, but the pair was hit by a 10 foot wave and overcome by a powerful rip current. The swimmer made it to shore safely, but Carlson disappeared. More than 25 rescuers took part in an intensive search, and after more than 90 minutes Carlson was pulled from the treacherous water near the Newport Beach pier.

Paramedics were unable to resuscitate Carlson. He was pronounced dead at Hoag Memorial Hospital. An autopsy will be conducted later this week.

Newport Beach officials say hundreds of people were rescued over the holiday weekend. There will be similar dangerous conditions in the water Monday.

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