SoCal Lifeguard Dies While Rescuing Swimmer

A veteran Newport Beach lifeguard died while trying to rescue a swimmer during dangerous water conditions, officials said. Kate Larsen reports from Newport Beach for the NBC4 News at 11 on Sunday, July 6, 2014 (Published Monday, Jul 7, 2014)

A veteran Newport Beach lifeguard died while trying to rescue a swimmer in treacherous waters Sunday, fire officials said.

Ben Carlson, 32, went missing after jumping into the water about 5 p.m. to rescue a man in distress, Newport Beach fire officials said. Searchers found Carlson about three hours later and rushed him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Carlson was a lifeguard of 15 years in Newport Beach, the affluent Orange County city about 42 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

"Ben was a well-respected individual, always a nice guy," said Newport Beach Fire Chief Scott Poster during a press conference. "It's just an utter tragedy to lose a man of that caliber in the water today."

Carlson's death marks the first time a Newport Beach lifeguard has died in the line of duty in 100 years, Poster said.

Carlson was attempting to save the swimmer in 6- to 8-foot surf off the coast near 16th Street when the two were hit by a large wave, officials said. More than 25 rescuers went searching for Carlson in the water, with support from those on land and in the air.

The swimmer made it safely to shore and was not hurt, Poster said.

Newport Beach officials said 75 to 80 lifeguards on duty made more than 200 rescues Sunday. Thousands more were issued warnings about the strong rip currents.

Kate Larsen contributed to this report