‘True DeKalb hero’ | Ex-firefighter drowns while rescuing Alabama swimmers

The DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department announced Monday that Bill Smith, its former deputy chief of operations for 25 years, had died. (Image: OfficerDown Memorial Page)

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The DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department announced Monday that Bill Smith, its former deputy chief of operations for 25 years, had died. (Image: OfficerDown Memorial Page)

DeKalb commissioner: Bill Smith ‘died doing what he made a career out of for 25 years. Saving lives.’

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

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

Smith, who specialized in patrolling Gulf Coast beaches, and another deputy, Sydney Wentworth, were working on the peninsula about 6 p.m. when three swimmers got into trouble in the water. Smith drowned during the rescue attempt, according to WTVM, while the swimmers were rescued. Wentworth was taken to a local hospital, where she is recuperating.

Smith had been with the department for seven years.

During a Tuesday morning meeting, DeKalb County Commissioner Robert Patrick called Smith a “true DeKalb County hero.”

”Smith died doing what he made a career out of for 25 years,” Patrick said. “Saving lives.”

“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 (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.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Tyler Estep contributed to this report.

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