FORT MORGAN, Ala. (WALA) – It wasn’t for a lack of effort that a man from north Alabama died Wednesday after getting swept up in a stiff current.

Numerous people who were on the beach said they tried to help him.

Northern Alabama man drowns in Gulf near Fort Morgan

“We had multiple people, multiple volunteers,” said Michelle Hennies, a nurse who lives in Oklahoma. “All came selflessly to help. So we all worked together as a team and prayed over him and did the very best that we could with all of our hearts.”

The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office said the man, identified as 63-year-old James Campbell of Athens, Alabama, died.

The drowning comes three days after a Baldwin sheriff’s deputy, Bill Smith, died rescuing swimmers not far from the same spot. The Gulf’s latest victim died just off the beach at the end of Buchanan Court East, a spot surrounded by beach homes, less than two miles east of the fort.

Hennies had just met the man and his family. She said her beach neighbors even took a photo of her and her husband.

“Oh, they seemed very stand-up people, very Christian, loving people that were thrilled to bless our family by taking our picture,” she said. “And we in return just chatted – and easy-to-talk-to, good people.”

Richard Hennies, who serves in the Air Force, said the victim had been in the water for a while, not venturing too far out. Then, things changed.

“We didn’t necessarily realize what the beach conditions were, and I looked over my shoulder and I’d seen the mountain of waves,” he said. “And I saw him get a little further and a little further. And I just want out to check on him, and that’s when I realized something was wrong.”

Hennies said he managed to reach the man.

“I rolled him over so his head was up and then about three second later,” he said. “I found the sand under my feet. So the Lord just lifted it up under me, and I was able to pull him back, started shouting for help.”

Hennies acknowledged feeling fear as he charged into the water. Michelle Hennies said her husband “rose to occasion,” along with other members of her family.

“It’s dangerous, but at the time he needed help,” she said.

Lando Weems, on vacation from Decatur, said his father ran over to help.

“I picked my phone up and called 911,” he said. “And by the time I back over there from being on the phone, they had him laying up on the beach.”

Carl Moore said his family has vacationed at this spot for years but that Wednesday was the first time he has seen anything like this. He described hearing the commotion.

“I seen them dragging him out. Then somebody hollered, ‘Dial 911,’” he said. “Then I ran down there and dragged him out and another man out of the water, started with CPR.”

All content © 2021, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.

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