Former Ga. county firefighter dies rescuing swimmers in Alabama

William "Bill" Smith, 57, entered the water with a fellow sheriff's deputy to assist the swimmers, but was unable to make it and drowned during the rescue attempt


Tim Darnell
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A former DeKalb County firefighter died Sunday off the coast of Alabama while rescuing a group of swimmers in distress.

According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, William "Bill" Smith, 57, who was serving as a Baldwin County Sheriff's deputy, died during a rescue attempt on the Fort Morgan peninsula.

Smith, who specialized in patrolling Gulf Coast beaches, and another deputy, Sydney Wentworth, were working on the peninsular around 6 p.m. when three swimmers got into trouble in the water. The swimmers and Wentworth, according to WTVM, but Smith drowned during the rescue attempt.

Smith had been with the department for seven years.

"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."

"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," said the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office. "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 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."

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(c)2021 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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