A former deputy chief for DeKalb County Fire Rescue died during a rescue attempt in the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Morgan, Alabama.
William “Bill” Smith, who retired from DeKalb County, Georgia in 2011, was working for the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama at the time of his death.
Smith specialized in patrolling Gulf Coast beaches, and was working with Deputy Sydney Wentworth on the Fort Morgan peninsula when three swimmers got into trouble in the water.
The swimmers were rescued successfully, but Smith drowned during the rescue. Wentworth is currently recuperating at a local hospital.
According to DeKalb County Fire Chief Darnell Fullum, Smith is “fondly remembered in our department for his passion and dedication to the fire service and the resolute protection he gave to the citizens of DeKalb County.”
Smith had worked as a law enforcement officer and a firefighter for over 25 years, and had worked also worked at the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office prior to joining the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office.
”Smith died doing what he made a career out of for 25 years. Saving lives,” said DeKalb County Commissioner Robert Patrick, calling Smith a “true DeKalb County hero.”
“A veteran in law enforcement, Deputy Smith’s final actions resulted in the ultimate sacrifice, to save the life of a citizen,” said Hal Taylor, secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. “His service, sacrifice and brave actions will never be forgotten as a true hero to his local community and the entire state of Alabama.”
The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office released a statement about Smith, writing:
“It is with great sadness the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office has to confirm the loss of one of our own. Deputy Bill Smith passed away last night, June 6th, while attempting a water rescue of a swimmer in distress on Fort Morgan Road. Another deputy also had entered the water in an attempt to rescue the individuals as well. That deputy was transported to a hospital and is going to be OK. All of the swimmers who were in distress are being treated for (a) non-life-threatening situation. Deputy Smith was a seven year veteran of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office. Thank you for keeping Deputy Smith’s family and the sheriff’s office in your prayers.”