Less than three months after the surf off Fort Morgan Road claimed the life of Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy William “Bill” Smith, Mobile city officials presented the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office with new technology that may help to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
The 57-year-old deputy drowned June 6 after responding to an emergency call reagrding swimmers in distress. Deputy Sydney Wentworth was hospitalized in the rescue attempt.
“Deputy Bill Smith had one thing on his mind … and that was to save a human life and he did,” Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack said at a press conference. “He saved a human life that day, but unfortunately he lost his.”
It was Smith’s death that prompted Mobile Police Department Commander Kevin Levy and his team at the Gulf Coast Technology Center’s cyber intelligence unit in Mobile to develop a drone that can release an auto-inflating life preserver to help rescue swimmers. Mayor Sandy Stimpson presented BCSO and Mack with the specially equipped drone on Friday, while also giving a presentation of what it can do.
As the demonstration in the Mobile River showed, a drone pilot flies the vehicle to where the distressed swimmer is and drops a floatation device. The device inflates once it hits the water and the swimmer can hold on and wait for more help to arrive. The drone can follow the swimmer and help rescuers find the person in distress once the device has been deployed.
Mack called drone technology “another tool” for law enforcement. This first drone will be added to the vehicle of the one deputy currently patrolling the beach areas, he said. With a new budget cycle, Mack said, comes hope that the Baldwin County Commission will allow for more deputies to police the area.
This summer, Mack said, deputies were taking extra shifts to make sure the popular beach destinations were properly patrolled.
“Technology is so important to law enforcement these days,” Mack said. “This is another tool in our arsenal and we are honored to accept this in memory of Deputy Smith.”
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