Fort Walton Beach, FL – DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department (DCSD) Search and Rescue Director William Nichols died in the line of duty while rescuing his son from the rough ocean waters off of Fort Walton Beach on July 22, according to his department.
The 33-year-old deputy was on vacation with his family when his 10-year-old son became caught up in a rip current that started pulling him out to sea, the DCSD said in a Facebook post the following day.
Director Nichols jumped into the ocean and managed to save his son’s life before the current pulled him out into the water instead, WEAR reported.
The young deputy’s body was recovered by the Walton County Fire Rescue, according to the DCSD.
Paramedics rushed him to Sacred Heart Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, WEAR reported.
“His last act of service was rescuing his own son,” the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) said in a Facebook post on July 22. “We have no words to express our devastation. Our hearts go out to his family and our brothers and sisters in Desoto County.”
Director Nichols was a DCSD Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer long before he joined the department as a deputy in January of 2010, the DCSD said in the Facebook post.
He continued volunteering with the SAR until seven years ago, when he took over as the program director.
The DCSD said that Director Nichols was a “humble, passionate, [and] kind” deputy who “always put others before himself.”
“Director Nichols was the embodiment of a true hero,” his department said. “Please keep the Nichols family in your prayers during this difficult time, and thank the Lord for men like Director Nichols who have given their life so that others may live.”
Director Nichols leaves behind his wife, as well as his 10-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter.
He was laid to rest on Sunday, according to his department.
"He died a hero's death": A #Mississippi deputy drowned Wednesday after rescuing his 10 y.o. son from the Gulf in #NWFL. Tune into @weartv tonight at 10 to hear how William Nichols's colleagues are remembering him as a father, friend & hero. Details: https://t.co/to5y7cIasa pic.twitter.com/27nbZzfE7x
— Renee Beninate (@reneebeninate) July 25, 2020
Heartbreaking story we are following — A Desoto County deputy drowned yesterday on vacation in FL, shortly after saving his sons life.
William Nichols was the Director of the Desoto Co. Search & Rescue Unit.
— Symone Woolridge (@SymoneTV) July 23, 2020
#RIP De Soto County Sheriff Deputy William Nichols who died after saving his son from a rip current. Nichols was the director of the county #SAR Team. His last act of service was the rescue of his own son. The embodiment of a true #HERO #TYFYS🇺🇸 #TooSoon @DCSDsocialmedia pic.twitter.com/kMCKzubwsC
— Malibu Search Rescue (@MalibuSAR) July 26, 2020
Support William Nichols’ Family https://t.co/26ljaVQqUG
— kayla. 🌻 (@backup_dsh) July 23, 2020
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department (DCSD) Search and Rescue Director William Nichols, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.