Newport Beach seasonal lifeguard Brian Gray died Saturday from injuries sustained from a fall off a bicycle, officials said. He was 38 years old.
Gray had worked for the city of Newport Beach for more than 21 years and was one of the rescuers who rescued a boy trapped in sand near 8th Street in 2006. He also was a Junior Guards instructor and worked on the Newport Beach Fire Department’s CPR in the Schools program.
According to online logs, Newport Beach police received an urgent call of a person down at 26th Street and Newport Boulevard at 2:02 a.m. Friday. Officers arrived at the 26th Street parking lot and found him face down, said Sgt. Eric Peterson.
“He was riding his bike and fell,” Peterson said.
Lifeguard Chief Rob Williams called Gray an excellent waterman and a mentor to seasonal lifeguards.
“It’s tragic,” he said.
Gray was born in Newport Beach in 1974. He attended Harbor View Elementary School and Corona del Mar High School, where he played water polo.
“Brian loved the beach and seemed to have lifeguarding in his blood,” a lifeguard email said. He became a lifeguard in 1990 through a city Youth Employment Program, then worked as a lifeguard intern and was hired as a Lifeguard 1 in 1991. He was promoted to Lifeguard II in 1996 and to Lifeguard III in 2012.
“Brian was one of our most senior seasonal lifeguards and well respected,” the email said. “He was…confident in every situation.”
Gray was a Junior Lifeguard instructor from 2001 to 2004 and worked on the NBFD’s CPR in the Schools program.
In July 2006, Gray helped save a boy’s life by digging him out of sand when he became trapped at a beach on the Balboa Peninsula. He and other lifeguards received the Bravo for Bravery Award from the American Red Cross for the rescue.
For the past several weeks, Gray had been working as a courier for the Newport Beach Fire Department, and department paramedics recognized him when they arrived at the scene, authorities said. He was stabilized but died the next day.
“We are all deeply saddened for the loss of a valuable member of our department,”
The department email said. “In true character, Brian is continuing to help others in donating vital organs to those in need.”
Gray is survived by his parents, John and Mary Lou; his brother, Robert; his sister-in-law, Claire; nieces Nya and Georgie; and nephew James.
Services will be scheduled for early January, the lifeguard email said.
Gray’s death was the second lifeguard death this week. On Dec. 19, Buddy Belshe died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He had worked as a Newport Beach lifeguard for 47 years and spent a total of 57 summer guarding lives at the beach; read our story here.