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Mississippi deputy drowns in Florida after saving teenage son

Justin Vicory Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Walton Sun

A Mississippi deputy died Wednesday after saving his teenage son in the waters off a beach in Florida.

William K. Nichols, 33, the director of the Search and Rescue Unit for the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department, was pulled from the water after rescuing his teenage son who was in distress, the Walton County Sheriff's Office said.

Authorities attempted to revive Nichols by performing CPR. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Nichols was at a popular beach resort near Sandestin while on family vacation.

"His last act of service was rescuing his own son. We have no words to express our devastation. Our hearts go out to his family and our brothers and sisters in Desoto County," said Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson Jr. in a Facebook post.

Red flags were flying on Wednesday on the South Walton Beaches where the drowning occurred. The flags indicate a high hazard for rough surf and rip currents as a tropical disturbance makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Destin log.

Beaches are closed to the public when there is a two red flag warning. There was a one red flag warning Wednesday, according to the sheriff, which signifies to beach-goers to use extreme caution.

DeSoto County Emergency Management posted a statement to its Facebook page.

"Our county lost a hero tonight. Director William Nichols of the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Unit passed away earlier this evening on a family vacation to Florida. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, team, and our brothers and sisters in blue at DCSO. Thank you for your service to our community."

The Search and Rescue Unit is trained to locate, render aid and provide expedient services to individuals in distress. Its mission is to minimize the loss of life and property damage and to provide recovery services as needed; always with concern for the safety of all parties, according to the department website.

Contact Justin Vicory at 769-572-1418 or jvicory@gannett.com. Follow @justinvicory on Twitter.