07/16/2014 06:01 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Thousands Take To Waters Off California Beach For Powerful Tribute To Fallen Lifeguard

This touching memorial for a fallen hero proves that there can be beauty even in the face of tragedy.

A moving vigil was held over the weekend for Ben Carlson, a lifeguard who drowned while performing a rescue in Newport Beach, Los Angeles Times reported. Other lifeguards in a rescue boat were able to pull the swimmer from the 8-foot surf off of the Balboa Peninsula but were unable to rescue Carlson. The 32-year-old had been a lifeguard for 15 years.

Last Sunday, a week after Carlson died, thousands paddled out to honor the man who spent more than a decade rescuing beach-goers. Newport Beach city spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said about 5,000 people watched from the pier and shore, as another 2,500 people entered the water on boats, paddle boards and kayaks.

The mourners formed a circle in the water near where the lifeguard was lost and chanted "Ben, Ben, Ben," according to the Orange County Register. Another memorial was held later that evening on the beach in which Newport Fire Chief Scott Poster awarded Carlson a posthumous medal of valor.

Newport Beach Fire Department Assistant Chief Rob Williams told the crowd that Carlson had made "thousands of rescues in his career, one not more important than the other," reported KTLA 5.

"There is no greater act of heroism and bravery than giving your life to save another," Poster said during the ceremony, according to the outlet. "Ben is a true hero."

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