Ala. deputy drowns, another hospitalized saving swimmers

Deputy Bill Smith, 57, was a member of the Baldwin County Sheriff's Department for the past seven years

Duty Death: Bill Smith - [Fort Morgan, Alabama]

End of Service: 06/06/2021


By John Sharp
AL.com

FORT MORGAN, Ala. — Baldwin County Sheriff Deputy Bill Smith was killed on Sunday while attempting to rescue distressed swimmers off a private beach along the Fort Morgan peninsula west of Gulf Shores.

Smith, 57, was a member of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department for the past seven years. Social media posts indicate he served about three decades as a firefighter. He also served with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.

“He was a hard worker,” said Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack, during an interview Sunday with WKRG-TV. “Came to us with an enthusiastic attitude. He was just a go-getter.”

Mack said that the Smith volunteered to patrol along Fort Morgan Road, adding that it “was what he wanted to do.”

Smith was one of two deputies who responded to a “swimmer in distress” call along Fort Morgan Road. At least three people were in the water who were “in distress.” A second deputy, later identified as Sydney Wentworth, also responded to the scene.

“The rescue attempt, all of the swimmers and both deputies, were drawn into deeper waters,” Mack said. “This was possibly caused by rip current.”

The U.S. Coast Guard also responded to the scene.

Wentworth was taken to South Baldwin Regional Medial Center in Foley where she received medical care and was released on Monday. The swimmers, who have not been identified, were rescued, Mack said.

Smith was taken to a new free-standing emergency facility in Gulf Shores where he was pronounced dead.

“What happened (Sunday) is what I expected Bill to do,” Mack said. “Without hesitation, he perceived a life was in danger and went in to save a life.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall called Smith a “hero” who sacrificed himself to save others.

“It is with great sadness that Alabama’s law enforcement community has suffered the loss of another hero,” said Alabama Attorney General Marshall. “Deputy Smith’s brave and swift response to save the life of another should cause us all to pause and reflect upon the sacrifice of all law enforcement. We can never repay Deputy Smith for putting the life of a potential victim ahead of his own.”

Other politicians took to social media to recognize Smith’s actions.

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