William Eugene Jones died after helping to save a girl from drowning, Panama City Beach, Florida, July 2, 2003. While wading in the Gulf of Mexico, two 17-year-old girls screamed for help as a strong current pushed them farther from shore. Warning flags had been posted on the beach, as surf conditions were rough from the passage of a tropical storm two days earlier. From the beach, Jones, 54, national distribution manager, and others heard the cries and responded to the waterline. Jones and others then ran into the water and began to swim toward the girls. Jones reached one of them and pushed her toward another responding rescuer, who then started toward shore with her. A responding police officer rescued the girls, and one of the other rescuers, with the use of a personal watercraft. Jones, meanwhile, was seen floating farther from shore, and he was recovered by others. He was taken to the hospital, where he died of drowning.
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