UCSB Water Polo player dead after being pulled up from bottom of swimming pool

A UCSB water polo player, sophomore Nicholas Johnson, was pulled unresponsive from the bottom of the Santa Barbara High School pool this morning, and after receiving treatment from lifeguards and EMTs, was pronounced dead later in the day.

19-year-old Johnson, who swam and played water polo at Santa Barbara High School, was home and completing his own swim practice in one lane while the high school team practiced in the rest of the pool. Three of the high school swimmers trained as lifeguards saw Johnson at the bottom of the pool, and according to local news source Noozhawk, pulled him to the surface and began giving him CPR.

An emergency medical crew was called around 9:45, Noozhawk reports, and began their own treatment of Johnson immediately when they arrived. Johnson was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and was pronounced dead there.

As the UCSB campus and water polo program mourn the loss of one of their own, water polo coach Wolf Wigo called Johnson “the best kid, hardest-working kid, a first-class person and a wonderful students and brother to his teammates,” according to Noozhawk.

USA Water Polo posted the news on Facebook and Twitter today, saying “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and teammates.

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Sad that this is probably going to result in a lawsuit against the high school and result in more and more restrictions regarding who can use the pools.

No guards

This one though may finally bring to light how the SB high schools pools are mismanaged and unsupervised. This tragedy has been in the making for some time. Being certified to be on a pool deck and supervising activities in the pool are very different things. When this plays out’, changes will finally be made in the swimmers favor, one can only hope. This family should not have lost their son. Tragic indeed.


As a long-time guard, I have to say that having a guard there would not have been all that likely to have helped. While the extra 30 secs or a minute can really count, the biggest difference is made by having a defib on hand. They should be mandatory, or more mandatory, then they currently are. I coached against Nick two years ago, if I remember correctly. He was part of a class team and program, and my heart goes out to his family, his 3(I believe) younger siblings, and his Gaucho family as well. The UCSB guys I’ve talked to about this say he will definitely be missed. He was a son of California, he fought for the gold… Read more »

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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