LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A small-town Kentucky police officer swept away by floodwaters was found dead Saturday after an overnight search, authorities said.
Hickman police Officer Rodney S. Smith disappeared Friday night while on duty, and his body was found the next morning in a flooded field, Kentucky State Police Detective Jody Cash said.
Before his disappearance, Smith contacted a dispatcher asking for help after his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters from a nearby creek, Hickman city manager James Gray said.
“It’s unexpected and devastating,” Gray said.
Smith, 45, of Boaz, Kentucky, was pronounced dead at the scene by the Fulton County coroner, Cash said. The investigation was ongoing and an autopsy was planned Saturday, he said.
Search and rescue teams from Kentucky and Tennessee joined in the overnight search.
Hickman, a town of about 2,400 people along the Mississippi River, is in the far southwest corner of Kentucky. The town is about 270 miles (435 kilometers) southwest of Louisville.
The first word that Smith had encountered high water came about 9:15 p.m. CST Friday when he told a dispatcher that his cruiser had run off the road at the edge of town and asked for a tow truck, Gray said. The situation escalated quickly and he radioed back for help, saying his cruiser had been caught in a swift current, Gray said. The area has received heavy rain in recent days.
Smith got out of the cruiser when it began to sink, and authorities lost contact with him, Gray said. Dozens of searchers went out looking for him.
His body was found about 5 a.m Saturday, Cash said. His cruiser also was found.
Smith had been a member of Hickman’s police department for nearly five months, Gray said. The department has a half-dozen officers, including the chief, he said. Smith previously worked as an officer in Mayfield, Kentucky, for several years, Gray said.