As a tribute to the first and only Newport Beach lifeguard who died in the line of duty, City Council last week unanimously declared July 6 as Benjamin M. Carlson Day.
Council voted 7-0 on June 25 and approved a resolution officially recognizing July 6 as a day named after the fallen lifeguard, in honor of his ultimate service to the city.
The audience applauded as Mayor Diane Dixon read the resolution and made the declaration.
“Ben continues to serve the community, visitors, and the lifeguards of Newport Beach with his example of sacrifice and service of his fellow man,” Dixon read from the resolution, quoting the mantra, “Whereas, Ben Did Go.”
His mother, Teri, as well as his sister and brother-in-law, Stephanie and Jake Janz, and their kids, were all in attendance at the meeting last week.
Jake Janz thanked the city, Council, fire department, lifeguards, and the NB Junior Guard for the support. Over the last five years, they’ve seen the best that Newport Beach has to offer, he said.
“What a way to be celebrated,” Janz commented.
Benjamin M. Carlson Day presented to the Council as a resolution (versus a proclamation) secures the honor in perpetuity, explained Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill.
“July 6 will forever be known as Ben Carlson Day,” in Newport Beach, O’Neill said.
The city has made proclamations for Vin Scully Day and John Wayne Day, both honoring great men, he added.
“But this one hits home for a lot of Newport Beach,” O’Neill noted.
The city has always recognized him down at the Newport Pier on July 6 in the late afternoon, something which O’Neill encouraged others to do as well.
This year would have been Carlson’s 20th anniversary with the city and marks five years since his final rescue.
On July 6, 2014, at 5:15 p.m. Carlson responded to a swimmer in distress in six-to-eight-foot surf near 16th street. He jumped from the city lifeguard boat into the large surf to rescue the swimmer. As he began towing the man back to the boat, a large set of waves crashed over both men.
The other lifeguard personnel at the scene attempted to assist Carlson, but due to the turbulent water conditions were unable to do so.
The swimmer surfaced, but Carlson went missing.
Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol, Laguna Beach Lifeguards, State Parks personnel, and the Newport Beach Police Department helicopter joined Newport Beach lifeguard, fire and other city staff in the search for Carlson.
In all, 25 individuals conducted a search in the water, supported by 30 others on shore and air support.
Following a heartbreaking three-hour search, Carlson was located by his fellow lifeguards at approximately 8 p.m. Newport Beach Paramedics transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.
Carlson was the first and only Newport Beach Lifeguard to die in the line of duty since the service was formed in 1923.
He was hired as a Newport Beach lifeguard on March 26, 1999.
“During his tenure as a lifeguard he served the community with pride and professionalism,” the staff report reads.
His impact on the community continues with the Ben Carlson Memorial & Scholarship Foundation, the Benjamin M. Carlson Lifeguard Headquarters, and a statue of the 32-year-old lifeguard in McFadden Square at the Newport Pier. Just steps away from the spot where he made his last rescue, the larger than life statue of the fallen lifeguard was unveiled in 2016, forever watching over the sand and water he cared so deeply for.
The Newport Beach Fire Department has also established the annual Pier-Wedge-Pier workout on July 6th to remember and recognize Ben’s heroism which inspires future generations for a life of service.