Witnesses say fallen deputy bravely ran into the surf to save others

Baldwin County

FORT MORGAN, Ala. (WKRG) — This is a tragedy being felt across Baldwin County from the countless law enforcement agencies offering condolences to the beachgoers who saw the commotion Sunday.

Beachgoers say the surf was extremely rough Sunday. Two deputies went into the water to rescue four swimmers. They all were pulled from the water with the help of the Coast Guard. Deputy Bill Smith was taken to a medical clinic in Gulf Shores and later died. A vacationer from Arkansas says she briefly spoke to Smith before he got in the water.

“I think he should be very honored and people should watch [the surf]. Knowing he talked to us before he passed away was kind of sad,” said Cheyanne McMillian. “I think he contained himself very well knowing how many people were out there, it’s kind of sad for real, I will remember him for sure because he did do what he had to do.” Witnesses say deputy Smith acted bravely without hesitating

“It takes a special group of people to do that, to go out there for somebody else without hesitation, he never even hesitated he never looked to see if backup was coming or anything, he was the only one there and he went in the water,” said witness Autumn McMillian. Moments later deputy Sydney Wentworth also went into the water. She was hospitalized as well and released late last night. The sheriff says Deputy Wentworth is expected to be ok.

Dozens of people vacation along this stretch of the shore. At the time some weren’t sure what was happening but they knew it was bad.

“It breaks my heart, hurts me inside that something tragic like that had happened,” said vacationer Christal Schalk.

This is an area more than a mile from historic Fort Morgan. It’s dotted with several homes and condos. Dozens of beachgoers saw the commotion. Others told me they didn’t know what was happening but knew it was going to be something bad.

If you have information relating to this incident, please call the Gulf Shores Police Department at 251-968-2431 or contact us via email at gspdtips@gulfshoresal.gov.

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