The man and his wife, who were visiting from Fort Myers, were swimming in the ocean near 23rd Street at 2 p.m., Miami Beach.
He told lifeguards to save her first.
'I was trying to hold onto him, he was trying to hold onto me,' Smith told Wink News. 'In some kind of wave, he lost his grasp and then he got me back again, he found me again.'
The current was particularly strong at the time, and swimmers were warned of the risk after lifeguards placed a red flag on the beach.
As lifeguards were busy removing swimmers from the water, they pulled the Whittington’s body out.
He was not breathing and was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Smith, who had been married to Whittington for just two years, said: 'He did the most amazing thing in the world that he gave his life for me... I’m going to honor him until the day I die because of that… He’ll always be my hero.'
She told Wink News some of their belongings, including their credit cards, were stolen during the tragic incident.