Human Interest Deputy, 33, Drowns in Florida After Saving His 10-Year-Old Son from Riptide: 'A True Hero' "If William Nichols couldn't survive, nobody could have survived," a public information officer for the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department said By Jason Hahn Jason Hahn Jason Hahn is a former Human Interest and Sports Reporter for PEOPLE. He started at PEOPLE's Los Angeles Bureau as a writer and reporter in 2017 and interviewed the likes of Kobe Bryant, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Brady. He has a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master's degree in Journalism from Columbia University. He previously worked for Complex Magazine in New York City. People Editorial Guidelines Published on July 27, 2020 06:51 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: DeSoto County Sherrif's Department A Mississippi deputy died last week after saving his 10-year-old son from the ocean during a trip to a resort in Florida. DeSoto County Sheriff's Department deputy William Nichols was with his family at Fort Walton Beach on Wednesday when his son was pulled out into the ocean by a riptide, according to the department. While Nichols ultimately helped his son get back to shore after rushing into the water to save him, the 33-year-old was caught in the riptide himself. Nichols — the Director of Search and Rescue for the DCSD — was retrieved from the water by Walton County Fire Rescue and taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Along with his son, Nichols is survived by his wife and an 18-year-old daughter. "Words to describe Director Nichols would be humble, passionate, kind, and he always put others before himself," the department wrote in a Facebook tribute. "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 lives so that others may live," the tribute continued. "We are grateful for the kindness, professionalism, and hard work of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and Walton County Fire Rescue during this challenging time for the Nichols family and the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department family." "Director Nichols was the embodiment of a true hero," the department added. Pilot and His 9-Month-Old Child Among Passengers Killed After Small Plane Crashes in Utah Backyard DeSoto County Sherrif's Department In a recent update, the department said they are accepting monetary donations to benefit the family through the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. A funeral procession was held on Sunday and featured more than a hundred vehicles, according to DCSD. "He was something else," Tish Clark, a public information officer for DCSD, told NWF Daily News. "If William Nichols wasn’t a perfect example of a real hero, nobody is." Woman Dies in Tx. Apartment Fire After Searching for Dog: 'I Wish I Had Her Still,' Says Husband According to the department, Nichols discovered his interest in Search and Rescue thanks to his father, who had been part of the unit. Nichols joined DCSD as a patrol deputy in 2010 and volunteered with Search and Rescue until he was hired full-time. He served as the unit's director for seven years. Clark told the outlet that Nichols had experience in water rescues along the Mississippi River. "This is what he did for a living," she explained. "If William Nichols couldn’t survive, nobody could have survived." RELATED VIDEO: Deputy Saves Four Women Stuck in Rainbow Unicorn Float The Walton County Sheriff's Department also honored Nichols with a post to their Facebook page shortly after the incident. "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," they said. "Rest In Peace, brother. We have the watch."