NEW YORK — A lifeguard widely praised as a hero after Hurricane Sandy for rescuing neighbors endangered by flood waters and a fire that destroyed several homes in a small community has died in a surfing accident in Puerto Rico.
The death of Dylan Smith, 23, brought sadness again to residents of the Belle Harbor section of the Rockaways.
As word spread that Smith, who used his surfboard to ferry people to safety during the late October storm, had lost his life, a Heroes of Rockaway Facebook page said: ‘‘R.I.P. to Dylan Smith, our Rockaway Hero, tragically died this morning surfing in Puerto Rico. He will never be forgotten.’’
Smith’s body was found floating near his surfboard, police said. Authorities said a resident of Rincon spotted Smith in the water and took him to shore. They said a doctor tried to resuscitate him.
During Hurricane Sandy, Smith had rescued as many as a dozen people, said Michael Light, a family friend and New York fire chief. He paddled from porch to porch with his surfboard, moving people from imperiled perches amid flood waters and flames from a gas line explosion as more than a dozen homes around him burned to the ground.