Community honors fallen firefighter

Firefighter suffered fatal injuries at training event

ATASCOCITA, Texas - Members of the Atascocita community and hundreds of firefighters honored a fallen firefighter Monday.

Capt. Neal Smith, 46, died on Sept. 17 following a training exercise at the 17th Annual East Texas Area Fall Smoke Diver School in Beaumont. 

Authorities said Smith became unconscious during a smoke-related exercise. Department spokesman Anthony Turner said Smith was transported to a Beaumont hospital where he later died of heat exhaustion. The course is designed to provide firefighters advanced survival skills when using a self-contained breathing apparatus.

Hundreds of men and women in uniform stood strong and marched in honor of Smith as he was taken to First Assembly of God Church in Humble, where his funeral was held at 10 a.m.

"We actually ran into some burning buildings together," said Jeff Prescott, a retired firefighter who served under Smith for several years. "He and I were inside a house fire several years ago on Thanksgiving, side by side fighting fire."

Prescott said he was floored when he found out that Smith died during a training exercise.

"He was very involved in training, making sure our firefighters know what they're doing and how to do it safely," Prescott said. "Training will be his biggest legacy, taking care of his firefighters.

Smith, who had been with the department five years, is survived by his wife and two children.

Officials said it's the first death in the line of duty for an Atascocita firefighter since the department was established in 1978.

Atascocita is about 20 miles northeast of Houston.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.