BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — Final preparations are being made for a farewell to a hero in Baldwin County. Deputy Bill Smith will be remembered Saturday as a man who spent his life helping others.
Late Sunday, three swimmers were caught in the Gulf’s rough surf in Fort Morgan, Deputy Bill Smith answered the call for help.
“He never hesitated,” said witness Autumn McMillan. “He never looked to see if backup was there or anything, he just went in the water.”
Smith would grab beach attendant Donte Reed, who had tried to help save the other swimmers before getting in trouble himself. “I appreciate everything he did for me,” Reed said from his hospital bed. “I mean, it was life-changing coming out there for just a random person and he just did it without a second thought.”
Overcome by the waves, Deputy Smith was pulled from the water unconscious. Doctors would try to revive him for over an hour but their efforts failed.
On Monday, an emotional Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack addressed the media. “He saw a need to put his life on the line to save somebody else’s and that’s what he did.”
As word spread of his passing, tributes began almost immediately. “It didn’t surprise me that he died helping someone else that was just the kind of person he was,” said friend Jeremy Hardy.
His patrol unit, parked near the Robertsdale Sheriff’s Office annex, became a place to gather and to remember. “So many people loved him and it’s easy to see why,” added Hardy.
Smith, is such a common name for such an uncommon person so it seems only fitting that with all the sadness surrounding his death, there’s still hope. “We have to remember,” said Sheriff Mack Thursday, “While we lost a deputy we saved three civilians that have a second chance at life today.”
Deputy Sydney Wentworth also went in the water that day attempting to rescue one of the swimmers. She was hospitalized and is recovering.