Maryland Volunteer Firefighter Falls To Death

GERMANTOWN, Md. -- Investigators in Montgomery County are trying to determine what caused a veteran school employee and fire volunteer to fall to his death.

Police said 54-year-old John Horvat fell from a lighting scaffold at Seneca Valley High School at 12700 Middlebrook Road in Germantown about 7 a.m. Sunday. Colleagues said they heard him yell, then found him on the ground.

School officials said Horvat was setting up lights for a morning church service when he fell.

He was transported to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Horvat had worked for the Montgomery County Board of Education for 34 years, the last 20 at Seneca Valley, where he was in charge of media services.

Students and staff members are writing personal messages on a poster that will be given to Horvat's family. The school's TV studio, where Horvat worked on his pet project -- Quizmaster Challenge -- will be named for him.

"John was an icon at our school," said Seneca Valley Principal Suzanne Maxey.

Seneca Creek Community Church has held worship services at the high school for the past five years, and Horvat would transform the auditorium for them each week.

The church's pastor, the Rev. Mark Tindle, said Horvat went well beyond what he was required to do.

Horvat also is being mourned by the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad, with which he was a deputy chief. Fellow officers placed his helmet on the front of Rescue Squad 29, which will lead the funeral procession and carry his coffin to his final rest.

For the past 29 years, Horvat volunteered his time -- days, nights and weekends.

Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan issued a statement calling Horvat an exceptional individual and saying his loss will be deeply felt by the entire community.

Horvat leaves a wife and three children. His funeral will be held Thursday with a procession of police and fire vehicles passing the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad.