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A lifeguard tower at Newport Beach in Orange County, Calif. / Corbis file

(NEWSER) ?? A veteran California lifeguard who spent nearly half his life saving swimmers in Newport Beach died Sunday during a rescue attempt.

Ben Carlson, 32, who KTLA reports had been a local lifeguard for 15 years, dove into the tumultuous 10-foot waves around 5 p.m. to help a man in distress. Carlson reached the swimmer, but a giant wave knocked them both under the water. The swimmer re-emerged and made it back to shore; Carlson did not, reports the Los Angeles Times.

At least 25 rescuers joined the search for Carlson, which was stymied by up to 12-foot surf. His body wasn't recovered for three hours, according to local officials, and he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

"It's just an utter tragedy to lose a man of that caliber in the water today," Newport Beach Fire Chief Scott Poster said during a press conference, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Poster added that Carlson's death was even more devastating because he was the first Newport Beach lifeguard to die in the line of duty-over a span of time stretching some 100 years.

"It's a brotherhood that's very difficult to describe," Poster said. Carlson "will be given all the honor and respect that comes with losing a member of that brotherhood." (Also in California, a swimmer was bitten by a great white on Saturday.)

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Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: 'Utter tragedy': Swimmer survives, lifeguard dies

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