Officer who died saving son receives emotional hero’s welcome

Watch: Officer who died saving son receives emotional hero's welcome

HERNANDO, Miss. — It was a sad homecoming for a hero who died trying to save his own son from drowning in a Florida rip current.

A little before 8 p.m. a plane carrying the body of William Nichols returned to Desoto County as family and friends stood nearby.

Several of them worked alongside Nichols as he served as the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Director.

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“He gave his last breath for somebody else,” said Nichols.

His last breath was for his 10-year-old son who he saved from a rip current in Florida on Wednesday.

Desoto County Chief Deputy Justin Smith described his friend as humble, passionate and someone who would always put others before himself.

Smith flew down to Florida and back today to bring home this fallen hero.

“We are diminished, we miss him already you can see obviously he was someone who was loved and we will honor him and his legacy,” said Smith.

At a young age, Nichols was interested in search and rescue. 

He ended up joining the Desoto County Sheriff’s office in 2010 as a patrol deputy then served as the director for search and rescue for the past 7 years.

“That was his life I wouldn’t even call it a job I’d call it a passion, it was a career he was living,” said Smith.

Nichols was a man who lived his life serving others.

It’s a huge loss to the community and the Desoto County Sheriff’s office.

“I’m not one bit surprised by the outpouring we are getting from his coworkers, his professional relationships that are all showing themselves here,” said Smith.

The funeral for Nichols will take place on July 26 at Longview Heights Baptist Church off 4501 Goodman Road in Olive Branch.

Visitation will begin at 1:30 p.m. and services will be at 2:30 p.m.