Texas Captain Dies Following Smoke Diver Training

A member of the Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department who was hospitalized with a heat-related illness over the weekend following a smoke diver training exercise died Monday night.

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Capt. Neal Smith, 46, was pronounced dead at around 6:30 p.m. after his was taken off of life support as he was surrounded by his family at Baptist Beaumont Hospital, according to KOHU-TV.

Fire officials told the news station that Smith passed out inside the smoke house during the final part of the class on Sept. 15 at the Beaumont Emergency Services Training Complex and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Deputy Chief Mike Mulligan said that CPR was administered during the transport and that a pulse was regained.

Doctors later determined that Smith's body temperature was more than 106 degrees.

"It feels like one of my personal family members is gone," Mulligan said. "There's someone I'm not going to see anymore."

Fire Chief Bill Bivens told The East Montgomery County Observer that the five-year veteran of the department had been looking forward to the smoke diver training and planned to take part in a triathlon next week.

"He said he was in the best shape of his life, and it was a big shock that this happened," he said. "We don't know what exactly happened during the training, but Neal is the person who will push himself to the very limit.

"He's so motivated. A great leader. I can't say enough about him."

A chaplain was scheduled to offer counseling for Smith's fellow firefighters Monday night.

He is survived by his wife and two young children.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

A firefighter from Georgia also was hospitalized with heat-related illness during the same exercise, but his condition is unknown.

The State Fire Marshal's Office is heading up the official investigation of the incident.

Eight firefighters died during training last year, while 12 were killed in 2010, according to the USFA.

Firehouse.com will provide more information on this story as it becomes available.