Bad news on Christmas Eve — Hero Newport Beach lifeguard dies in apparent solo fall

This is not the news any of us want on Christmas Eve.

According to Corona del Mar Today, a hero lifeguard has died after an apparent solo fall.

Thirty-eight-year old Brian Gray was found laying face down near his bike at 2:02 am Friday at the intersection of 26th Street and Newport Blvd in Newport Beach. A police spokesman says he was simply fell while riding his bike; he died the following day in a local hospital.

The news site reports that Gray, a lifelong resident of Newport Beach, was one of the rescuers who saved the life of 13-year old Dylan Scott of Riverside when he was buried in the sand in 2006; he received the Bravo Award from the American Red Cross, along with other lifeguards involved in the rescue.

In addition to his work as a lifeguard for the past 21 years, Gray worked as a courier for the Newport Beach Fire Department; paramedics reportedly recognized him at the scene.

Of course, as in any solo fall, the question is why.

Given the hour, it’s possible that Gray may have been drinking and simply fell off his bike.

However, it’s also entirely possible that he fell as a result of being brushed or buzzed by a passing car, leaving little or no evidence behind to point to a dangerous pass that may have resulted in the rider’s death — which I suspect happens far more often than any of us realize.

Or he could have simply lost control of his bike for any number of reasons, something that happens to even the best riders, myself included.

This is the 73rd cycling fatality in Southern California this year, three above the total for last year, and the 14th bicycling death in Orange County this year. Remarkably, it’s the third bicycling fatality in tiny Newport Beach, with a population of just 86,000 — though it should be noted that the area is a popular biking destination, drawing in far more riders than its small size would suggest.

Gray is also the 14th SoCal rider to die in a solo fall in 2012, and third in Orange County.

So please, let’s be careful out there.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Brian Gray and all his family and loved ones. It’s hard enough to lose someone you love, but especially tough this time of year.

Thanks to David Huntsman for the heads-up.


  1. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Terrible, terrible. Condolences to his family, and friends. Very sad.

  2. Without a gun or car, it’s almost impossible to kill yourself or anyone else — whether riding a bike or not.

    Another solo fall death?

    Generally speaking, I wish we could get more details on the specific cause of death for all cyclist deaths. Details about any damage to the bike, etc.

    • bikinginla says:

      Unfortunately, police aren’t trained to look for small damage to the bike that could indicate a minor collision with catastrophic results. And without a full autopsy, they are unlikely to notice the bruising on the left side that could indicate a brush by a car side or mirror.

      And there’s no evidence whatsoever left behind when a cyclist is Jerry Browned in a too-close pass that causes the rider to lose control.

  3. jk says:

    sounds police have changed their story

  4. Leroy the machocist says:

    Brian was a great guy and rode his bike everywhere.

    From the details we know (it occurred in a parking lot) it is unlikely that any other vehicle was involved.

    Brian’s friends and family appreciate the note and expressions of condolence fromn the cycling community.

    RIP BG

    • bikinginla says:

      Thank you Leroy. I truly appreciate the thought.

      I’ve heard nothing but good things about Brian. And while I never met him, I do have great respect for lifeguards; I might not be here without the efforts of L.A. County lifeguards when I had a solo riding fall a few years back.

      Please accept my prayers for you, Brian and all his family and loved ones.

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