Wichita native dies during training exercise in Texas

More than 300 firefighters and 150 firetrucks from the Houston area gathered Monday to honor a firefighter with Wichita roots who died last week during a training exercise.

Capt. Neal Wade Smith, 46, died Sept. 17 in Beaumont, Texas, from complications of a heat-related illness. He was attending the 17th Annual East Texas Area Fall Smoke Diver School in Beaumont. The school teaches firefighters advanced survival skills when using a self-contained breathing apparatus.

While participating in the event, Smith fell unconscious during one of the exercises and was rushed to a Beaumont hospital. According to Firehouse.com, a website for firefighters, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has begun an inquiry into Smith’s death, along with the Texas Fire Marshal’s Office.

The website reported “Smith passed out inside a smoke house during the final part of the class and was taken to Baptist Beaumont Hospital.”

Another 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.

Funeral services with full military and firefighter honors were Monday in Humble, Texas. A graveside service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Greenwood Cemetery in Wichita, 6231 W. 47th St. South.

Smith was raised in Wichita. He was a 1985 graduate of Northwest High School and attended college at Kansas State University and Wichita State University.

He served in the U.S. Navy for five years and joined the Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department in 2008. Atascocita is a suburb in the Houston area.

Smith is survived by his wife, Penny, and two children, Nicholas and Natalie; parents, Donna and Dexter Stephens, Robert and Patricia Miller; two brothers, Noel and Nathan; and one sister, Anita.

Contributing: Associated Press