Baldwin County Sheriff Huey "Hoss" Mack revealed more details Monday about the water rescue in the Gulf that led to the death of Deputy Bill Smith.
The sheriff said Smith died a true hero.
Deputy Smith and Deputy Sydney Wentworth were called to an area west of Gulf Shores, Alabama, around 6 p.m. Sunday after a report of a swimmer in distress. The sheriff's office said Wentworth went into the water to rescue a woman who was struggling to stay above the water.
Sheriff Mack said a beach attendant noticed the swimmer and Wentworth in the water and rushed in to help, not realizing the deputy was rescuing the swimmer.
As the beach attendant swam out to the two women, he started going underwater himself. The attendant told investigators he then felt Deputy Smith grab him and tell him to hold on to a rescue buoy and swim to shore.
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As Smith was towing the attendant to the shore, he was overcome by the heavy seas and went under. Deputy Smith and the attendant were pulled to the shore by Logan Lambert of the Gulf Shores Fire Department.
Deputy Smith was rushed to the emergency room where he was pronounced dead.
"Bill Smith did what Bill Smith always did," Sheriff Mack said. "He saw the need to put his life on the line to save somebody else's. And that's what he did. He saved a life."
Sheriff Mack said everyone else pulled from the water is expected to survive.
Smith had been with the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office for seven years and previously served with the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office in northern Alabama.
The sheriff said Smith played an essential role in starting up the Beach Patrol Unit serving Fort Morgan.
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Smith's Beach Patrol vehicle will be on display at the sheriff's office in Robertsdale as a memorial for anyone wishing to leave flowers or say a prayer for Smith's family and coworkers.
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