City aquatics director: ‘Johnson bled junior guards’

Nick Johnson was standout in the City of Santa Barbara’s Junior Lifeguards program.

“He bled junior guards,” Rich Hanna, Director of Aquatics for the city, told Presidio Sports on Thursday from San Francisco, where was on a rest stop during a week-long bicycle trip. “He was the kind of quintessential kid; he did everything in the program and excelled at the highest level athletically. But, he was also one of those guys who was all about teamwork and a good guy. He always put everything above himself, and he never let the team down.”

The 19-year-old UCSB water polo player was training alongside the Santa Barbara High swim team Monday morning at the school’s pool. He was found unresponsive at the bottom of the pool and pulled to the deck by swim team members. He was given CPR before paramedics rushed him to Cottage Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A preliminary determination on the cause of death is an accidental drowning, the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office told Noozhawk. (Full story)

The Coroner’s Office is waiting on toxicological results, which is normal investigative procedure when a young, healthy person dies, Lt. Butch Arnoldi of the Sheriff’s Department told Noozhawk.

Johnson progressed through the Junior Lifeguards program to become an instructor.

“The last years he’s been an integral part of my staff, said Hanna, who hires several high school and college aquatics athletes to help run the popular summertime program. “He’s going to be missed by the junior lifeguard community for sure, and then very much by the aquatics section of the City of Santa Barbara.”

Hanna said the younger kids in the program looked up to Johnson.

“He did everything right. He was such a nice guy, approachable and open.”

Hanna said Johnson’s absence will hit it especially hard when the instructors return to do their certification training.

“Whether it be a Santa Barbara High kid or a Gaucho, everybody comes back to do their certification training. When somebody is not there, even when they’ve hung up their reds (swim suit), they got a full-time job, it’s noticed by everybody. And this is going to be a sobering, somber moment.”

A Nick Johnson Memorial Fund has been set up, where people can donate to the Santa Barbara High aquatics program in his name.

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