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A New Prague attorney on vacation with his family in Puerto Rico drowned last week in an area that's known for strong riptides.

His was one of at least five such deaths this year on the Caribbean island.

Benjamin King, 51, was pulled from the water by a tourist and taken by ambulance to a hospital but could not be resuscitated, according to reports. He is survived by his wife, Scott County District Court Judge Colleen G. King, and their children, Aidan and Molly.

His death has reverberated in New Prague, where he had served as both an assistant county attorney and a public defender, said his brother-in-law Patrick Goggins.

"The thing about Ben, he had this innate ability that everyone who he met down here liked him," Goggins said.

King's wife's family is from the New Prague area, and King, who was born in Milwaukee and raised in Green Bay and Madison, moved to New Prague about 20 years ago after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Hamline University School of Law. "It's a close-knit community and before you knew it, my lifelong friends were such good friends of Ben, and they treasured him," Goggins said.

On March 13, King and his family were at La Pared beach in Luquillo, on Puerto Rico's northeast coast, for surf lessons with a professional surfer. After the lessons were over, King was wading in chest-deep water when he started to struggle, according to reports. Another tourist, Jason Igielski, was able to swim out to King and bring him back to shore despite the conditions. Three other tourists gave King CPR until an ambulance took him to a hospital in Fajardo, about 6 miles away. A police report said strong currents in the area were to blame.

It's not unusual for swimmers to encounter strong tides at some beaches in Puerto Rico, according to the local tourism authority, and King's death along with several others in recent weeks have renewed calls to warn swimmers about riptides and ocean currents. Some local organizations have also called for a lifeguard corps to be established. Some 21 people drowned in Puerto Rico last year.

A 2023 study found that most rip current drownings in the United States take place in Florida, but they can occur anywhere from Puerto Rico to Alaska, including in the Great Lakes.

King's funeral is set for 12:30 p.m. Friday at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in New Prague. The mass will be live-streamed on Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Bruzek Funeral Home in New Prague.

"Ben had a reputation as a fair, level headed prosecutor," said Le Sueur County Attorney Brent Christian. "He was very knowledgeable of the law and well prepared."

King had worked for 18 years with the Le Sueur County Attorney's office, and only recently took a new position with the Carver County public defender's office.

"It was a huge loss to our office when Ben left to become a full time public defender, and he was deeply missed," said Christian. "He definitely leaves a huge hole in the legal community."

An obituary posted on the Bruzek Funeral Home website recalled King as a hard-working attorney, a Packers and Badgers fan and someone who loved fishing and hunting with friends and family. Nearly 100 people had left notes of support for King's family on the funeral home's website. Goggins said he would miss watching football games with King, and laughing with him.

"I'm going to miss our families being together and getting together, because we did it all the time," Goggins said.