Houston Fire Department cadet collapses, dies during training exercise

HOUSTON – A Houston Fire Department cadet collapsed and died Thursday morning during a training exercise.

Steven Whitfield II, 32, was participating in an obstacle course exercise when he collapsed near the end, according to firefighters. Authorities said other cadets and instructors on the course noticed Whitfield was in trouble and quickly rescued him.

The group used CPR in an attempt to resuscitate him but was unsuccessful, officials said. The cadet was taken to Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute, where doctors continued to work on him. Whitfield was pronounced dead at 12:48 p.m.

"It is a dangerous job, and he signed up for a dangerous assignment," Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "While in the line of duty preparing for this particular job, being a public servant, he lost his life. This city will be forever grateful."

Doctors are uncertain what caused the cadet to collapse during training. Firefighters said Whitfield was in full gear during the exercise, but the course does not involve live fire or smoke. However, firefighters said their uniforms are heavy and can easily make the wearer overheated, especially while engaging in strenuous activity.

Whitfield was in class 15-G. Turner said his roommate described him as an passionate basketball player in good health. Turner said Whitfield enrolled in the program Oct. 26 and was expected to graduate June 16.

“This tragic passing of Cadet Whitfield reminds us of the inherent dangers of our profession," President Alvin W. White of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association said. "We are grateful to our firefighter brothers and sisters, the academy instructors and cadets and the hospital staff for their valiant attempts to save Cadet Whitfield."

Firefighters said the course, which is a standalone house, was built in 2009. Officials said Whitfield's death has been the worst incident to take place since the house has been in use.