Wednesday, September 26, 2012
A Houston firefighter, raised in Wichita, died from injuries he received during a training exercise last week.
Wednesday night, he came home.
Captain Neal Smith's body was welcomed by local firefighters and family.
Captain Smith grew up in Wichita, spent time in the Navy and went to college at Kansas State and Wichita State Universities.
During a training exercise last week, reports show he collapsed and most likely died from a heat related illness.
As United flight 5248 landed in Wichita, a crowd was waiting on the runway to welcome home a hero.
"He's my older brother, he's always been a hero but this makes it even better,” Nathan Smith said.
Nathan Smith tells us his brother, 46 year old Captain Neal Smith, lived his life one adventure at a time.
"Passion, is the best word to describe Neal everything he did he did it with passion, 100 percent,” Smith said.
Nathan says about five years ago, his brother was ready for a new adventure and joined his local volunteer fire department in Texas.
Last week, Nathan says he got a phone call. He says his thoughts immediately turned to his father, whose been sick.
“When he said it was Neal, I was blown away,” Smith said.
For his entire journey home, Captain Smith was surrounded by his fellow firefighters. Eight men from his department brought him from Texas back to Wichita. Sedgwick County Firefighters were at the airport to meet the plane. Sedgwick County Firefighter Bill Hinkle graduated with Smith from Northwest, Class of 1985.
“It hits a little closer to home when it's someone that I actually know. In my career I’ve dealt with two line of duty deaths that were in my personal department and this makes three that are very personal to me,” Hinkle said.
Captain Neal Smith will be buried at Greenwood Cemetery Thursday morning.