NIOSH Investigating Training Death of Texas Firefighter

Atascocita Fire Capt. Neal Smith died two days after a smoke diver class on Sept. 15.


The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health's Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Program has begun an inquiry into the training death of a Texas firefighter.

Atascocita Fire Capt. Neal Smith, 46, died two days after a smoke diver training class on Sept. 15 at the Beaumont Emergency Services Training Complex where a firefighter from Georgia was also overcome by the heat.

Smith passed out inside a smoke house during the final part of the class and was taken to Baptist Beaumont Hospital where he was taken off life on Sept. 17.

Firefighter Otis Alford from Georgia, who traveled to Texas for the class, was listed in critical condition following the incident, but has since been released from the hospital, according to The Houston Chronicle.

Separate investigations by NIOSH and the Texas Fire Marshal's Office have been launched.

"The (fatality) program says they will be doing an investigation, but they will not go to the site until October," NIOSH spokeswoman Christina Spring told the newspaper. "Right now they are working on putting together the investigation, how they are going to conduct it."

Scott Matthews, an official with the Texas Engineering Extension Service, part of the Texas A&M University System, told the newspaper that the "Texas Smoke Diver" advanced training class did not involve an actual fire.

Instead, he says firefighters trained to negotiated smoke-filled rooms during the exercise.

"He was not burned. There was no live fire in that structure, he said. "This was a very well-supervised exercise."

Funeral services for Capt. Neal Smith are scheduled for Sept. 24 at 10 a.m. at First Assembly of God in Humble, Texas.