71-year-old Man Saves Best Friend's Life with AED, CPR After Heart Attack

Updated: May 1

It was a normal day.

Bill Winness was walking his normal route through the Western Mall with his two friends the morning of April 5 when one started to feel dizzy. He urged Winness to keep going while he sat and rested for a bit.

Just minutes later, a woman came running after the 71-year-old and his friend, Ray Smidt, to tell them that their friend, Keith Clark, was suffering a heart attack.

They ran back as fast as they could. The next thing Winness knew, he was grabbing the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) inside the building while Smidt ran to Clark's aid. Winness was by Clark's side instantly after grabbing the AED.

Winness was trained how to use the AED, an electronic device that diagnoses a cardiac arrest, and how to apply electricity in the event of one, in addition to CPR training years ago. All he remembered were the basics, but that was enough.

Bill Winness, left, and Ray Smidt, right, walk the Western Mall together Tuesday, April 9, in Sioux Falls. Winness and Smidt's friend Keith Clark, 81, had a heart attack last week during their morning walk.

The three of them usually walk the mall together. They have been doing their morning routine without Keith until he gets better. (Photo: Briana Sanchez / Argus Leader)

Winness doesn't remember panicking, just taking the steps he needed to save his best friend's life.

"I guess you just do whatever you have to do, you know? You don’t really think about it," Winness said.

The first step in using the AED was to apply adhesive strips to Clark's chest for the AED to read what should be done. Since Clark had a pacemaker, the AED just instructed Winness to give CPR. He started chest compressions while another bystander stood on the line with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.