ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement and first-responding agencies on Pleasure Island are continuing to investigate the death on Sunday, June 6 of Deputy William “Bill” Smith.
“He was a true hero,” said an emotional Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack Jr. during a press conference held Monday, June 7 outside the Baldwin County Central Annex II/Regions Bank building in Robertsdale. “He paid the ultimate sacrifice and laid down his life for another.”
Smith and Deputy Sydney Wentworth were on a routine patrol at around 6 p.m. Sunday when they responded to a 9-1-1 call in the area of Dune Drive regarding several swimmers in distress, according to a release issued by the BCSO Central Investigations Command.
“There were at least two swimmers in the water,” Mack said. “Deputy Smith went to one swimmer and Deputy Wentworth went with the other.”
There was some confusion as to a third swimmer in distress in the area, Mack said, but the swimmer was later identified as Wentworth.
Volunteers with the Fort Morgan Fire Department and Gulf Shores Fire Department also responded to scene, along with an Alabama Coast Guard unit, which was on patrol in the area.
One of the swimmers, identified as Adrienne Korecky, a visitor to the area, was transported to Springhill Hospital in Mobile where she was later released.
Wentworth was transported to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley where she was also released and was recovering at home at the time of Monday’s press conference, Mack said.
Smith and the second victim, later identified as Donte Reed, a summer employee with Fort Morgan Beach Rentals, were both transported to the South Baldwin Regional Medical Center’s Freestanding Emergency Room in Gulf Shores.
According to the release, Reed recalled being grabbed by someone who told him to hold on to a rescue buoy and swim to shore. The person who grabbed him was Smith.
“As Deputy Smith was towing (Reed) to shore, Deputy Smith was overcome by the heavy seas,” according to the release. “Deputy Smith went under water and began to struggle in the rough water and strong current. Deputy Smith eventually stopped swimming and had to be rescued from the water.”
Smith and Reed were both pulled to shore by Logan Lambert of the Gulf Shores Fire Department. Lambert and other first responders were able to get everyone out of the water.
While the Reed was also treated and released, Mack said, after being worked on for over an hour, Smith could not be revived.
“Deputy Smith was a very passionate public servant who was an integral part of our family,” Mack said. “He will be sorely missed. Our heart goes out to Deputy Smith’s family as they work through this incredibly sad time.”
Mack said Smith had been with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office for seven years. Prior to that, he was with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office. Before moving to law enforcement, Smith was a firefighter with the Dekalb County Fire Department in Georgia, where he retired as a deputy chief after 30 years of service.
“It is a very rare thing for someone to move from being a firefighter to law enforcement, but it was something he wore as a badge of honor,” Mack said. “It was just something that speaks to the fact that he had a servant’s heart and died doing something that he loved and was very passionate about.”
Mack said Smith was “living his dream” of having a home on the beach and working to protect its residents.
He was an integral part of the creation of the BCSO Beach Patrol Unit which serves the Fort Morgan Community, which was begun following Gov. Kay Ivey’s order to close the beaches in March of last year.
In October, the patrol unit was fully funded by the Baldwin County Commission and following training, which included water rescue training with the Gulf Shores Fire Department, Mack said, Smith and Wentworth were assigned full time to the patrol unit in March, along with several officers who filled in with the patrol unit part-time.
Before that, Smith had been assigned to the patrol and criminal investigations divisions, Mack said. He also served five years with the BCSO’s SWAT unit.
He lived in Gulf Shores with his wife, Mack said, and they had two grown sons, who live in North Alabama.
The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department continues to investigate Smith’s death, Mack said with the Gulf Shores Police Department serving as an assisting agency.
Monday’s press conference was held in front of Smith’s patrol vehicle, which is on display in the large grassy area located between the Central Annex II/Regions Bank building and Mack Funeral Home in Robertsdale, along with a memorial wreath both displayed with B-105 which was Smith’s call signal, Mack said.
“Anyone from the public who wants to visit the display and leave any remembrances from Deputy Smith is welcome to do so,” Mack said. The memorial will be on display through Friday.
Mack thanked the public and other law enforcement agencies for the outpouring of support following Smith’s death.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a statement Sunday night after learning of Smith’s death.
“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,” Marshall said. “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.”
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Hal Taylor also issued a statement on Monday.
“On behalf of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Smith,” Taylor said. “We join the law enforcement community in grieving the loss of a valiant and courageous hero.
“A veteran in law enforcement, Deputy Smith’s final actions resulted in the ultimate sacrifice, to save the life of a citizen. His service, sacrifice and brave actions will never be forgotten as a true hero to his local community and the entire state of Alabama.
“In addition to Deputy’s Smith’s heroic sacrifice, our thoughts and prayers are also with his colleague, Deputy Sydney Wentworth, who bravely assisted in the rescue and is currently recovering.”
Mack said Smith’s name will be added to the Baldwin County Fallen Officer’s Memorial located at Central Investigations Command off County Road 54 in Robertsdale. Smith’s name will also be added to fallen officers’ memorials in Montgomery and Anniston, Mack said, and the Sheriff’s Department will petition to have his name added to the National Fallen Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“Anytime you have to add a name to the memorial, you’re hoping it will be the last time,” Mack said. “But all of our officers know the dangers every time they put on that badge and come into the job willing to accept those risks.”
The last Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy killed in the line of duty was Deputy Scott Ward, who was shot during a gunfight outside a home in Fairhope in 2012.
Officer Michael D. Stockwell of the Orange Beach Police Department was added to the memorial after he was killed in a car crash on his way home in 2013. Sgt. Charles Carey Mitchum with the Loxley Police Department was added after he was killed in a car crash in 2015 on his way to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Training Facility in Stapleton.
Deputy Abram S. Johnson, who was shot by a suspect in 1881, was added to the memorial in 2020.