Another deputy dies after responding to call of swimmer in distress: ‘This hero sacrificed his own life to save another’


FORT MORGAN, AL – A Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office deputy reportedly passed away after being sent to an area hospital after responding to “swimmer distress” call during the evening of June 6th. Another deputy involved in the rescue was also briefly hospitalized but has since been released.

According to officials, Baldwin County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a “swimmer distress” call at approximately 6:00 p.m. nearby the Indie Condos on Dune Drive in Gulf Shores.

Initial reports noted that there were four swimmers in the water that needed to be rescued during the incident.

BCSO officials stated that one deputy, identified as 57-year-old Deputy William “Bill” Smith, had gone into the water to help rescue the swimmers and passed away sometime thereafter.

No additional details have been shared about Deputy Smith’s passing outside of the aforementioned.

Another rescuer, identified Deputy Sydney Wentworth, was reportedly hospitalized after being pulled from the water during the swimmer distress call.

Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack stated that Deputy Wentworth was released from the hospital on the evening of June 6th and is expected to fully recover. Two of the swimmers in the water were also transported to an area hospital, but no civilian fatalities were reported.

Deputy Smith was said to have served with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office for seven years. Prior to his time with the BCSO, Deputy Smith was also once a deputy in Northern Alabama and was also a retired firefighter.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released the following statement regarding the passing of Deputy Smith:

“It is with great sadness that Alabama’s law enforcement community has suffered the loss of another hero Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Smith perished in the line of duty while heroically rescuing a swimmer in distress along Alabama’s Gulf Coast Sunday evening.

“Deputy Smith’s brave and swift response to save the life of another should cause us all to pause and reflect upon the sacrifice of all law enforcement. We can never repay Deputy Smith for putting the life of a potential victim ahead of his own. Tonight, we offer our prayers to Deputy Smith’s family and his friends and colleagues in the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office.”

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office also released a statement on Deputy Smith’s passing on their official Facebook page, which read as follows: 

“Tonight, we are heartbroken to hear the news of the passing of Deputy William “Bill” Smith of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office in the line of duty. Deputy Smith and another deputy helped rescue swimmers in distress off the Alabama gulf coast, but unfortunately, Deputy Smith later gave the ultimate sacrifice following his life saving efforts.

“We hold close our brothers and sisters at the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Smith’s family during this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this terrible tragedy including those that continue to recover from the rescue today.

“Rest easy, Deputy Smith. Thank you for your service.”

Deputy Smith is survived by his wife and two children.

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Sadly, this is the second instance within a week’s time that Law Enforcement Today reported on a law enforcement officer passing away while attempting to rescue people stranded in the water. 

Earlier in June, a Worcester Police officer drowned sadly drowned while attempting rescue a drowning teenager. Here’s that previous report. 


Editor note: Our team at Law Enforcement Today has confirmed and verified a fundraiser for the fallen officer’s family.  To help support them, click here.

WORCESTER, MA – A 38-year-old Worcester Police officer drowned earlier in June while attempting to save a drowning teen, who sadly also passed away. 

A tragedy through and through, Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent said that the city “has lost a hero,” with the officer’s passing. 

The fallen officer was identified by officials as 38-year-old Officer Emmanuel Familia, who served the Worcester Police Department for five years before his passing. 

 Chief Sargent stated that the incident occurred on June 4th after reports came in about three teens spotted drowning in a pond at Green Hill Park.

One witness, identified as Sheryl Lamonda, spoke to a local news outlet about the incident: 

“Two kids were in the water trying to hold onto each other in the water when I got here, screaming that they couldn’t swim and that there was somebody else under.”

The police chief stated that five officers had jumped into the water to help the kids, with Officer Familia being one of them. 

Officers were able to rescue two of the teens in the water, however, Officer Familia and a 14-year-old boy never surfaced. Divers were called to the scene to search for Officer Familia and the boy, where both were discovered hours after the initial incident. 

Both Officer Familia and the child were rushed to an area hospital after being discovered, but were sadly pronounced deceased. 

Officials have not released the identity of the teen boy who passed away. 

Chief Sargent shared the following words about Officer Familia: 

“The Worcester Police Department has lost a brother, a friend and a partner, and the city of Worcester has lost a hero. We will remember and honor his selfless devotion to Worcester and his ultimate sacrifice to save someone he didn’t know.”

Governor Charlie Baker took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the loss suffered by both Officer Familia’s family and that of the young boy who passed: 

Tonight, two families are experiencing unimaginable pain and loss in the wake of a devastating tragedy in Worcester, with [Worcester Police] Officer Manny Familia and a teen losing their lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of both.”

“Officer Familia is a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice while attempting to save the young man. We are thinking of all those grieving tonight, and of Manny’s brothers and sisters at the [Worcester Police Department].”

A personal friend of the fallen officer, Woodrow Adams, Jr., said that Officer Familia was always the type to put others before him: 

“When you hear about the situation about what happened, that’s Manny. Saving other people. Putting his life on the line…He’s always been willing to go above and beyond for others and help people in need.”

Officer Familia leaves behind his wife Jennifer and a son and a daughter.

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