Cadet dies after collapsing at HFD training center in SE Houston

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A cadet has died after collapsing at a Houston Fire Department training center. (KTRK)

A cadet died Thursday afternoon after collapsing at a Houston Fire Department training center.

The cadet, 32-year-old Steven Whitfield II joined the cadet class in October of last year, and was scheduled to graduate in June. He had also been chosen as the official speaker for his graduation class.

Whitfield was rushed to Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute where he was pronounced dead. His body was later escorted by HFD fire engines and SUVs away from the hospital.

Executive Assistant Chief Richard Mann said Whitfield--in full firefighter gear--was training on an obstacle course inside what they call the "survival house" at the HFD Val Jahnke Training Facility on Braniff in Southeast Houston. Cadets are faced with seven scenarios that have killed firefighters nationally. Thousands have done it. It was Whitfield's first time. He had just finished.

"He had made it to the end of the course where he collapsed," Mann said.

His classmates, who sat in the front row of an afternoon news conference, were the first responders. Whitfield collapsed around 11am. He was then rushed to the hospital. Medical staff tried to resuscitate him for two hours. He was pronounced dead at 12:48pm.

Authorities say Whitfield passed the required physical and medical screening to be a HFD cadet. His friends describe him as competitive and athletic. Mayor Sylvester Turner said he was "in good health." His death is considered an "in the line of duty" death. There will be a full investigation.

"Cadet Whitfield signed up to be a public servant and it is a dangerous job," said Turner who added the city is grateful for his service.

Whitfield was recently a PE and Health teacher and Assistant Basketball Coach in Magnolia ISD. He resigned last October to start a new firefighting career.

In a statement, the district said,"Magnolia ISD is saddened by the loss of Steven Whitfield. He was
respected and well liked by our students. We extend our sincerest
condolences to Steven's family and friends."
The Houston Firefighters Union released a statement, which reads,

    "The men and women of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association mourn the loss of Steven Whitfield. An adopted member of our Association, Cadet Whitfield died today after collapsing during obstacle course training at the Houston Fire Department Val Jahnke Training Facility.

"This tragic passing of Cadet Whitfield reminds us of the inherent dangers of our profession. 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.

"The HPFFA, the City of Houston and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) are working to assist the Whitfield family and affected firefighters during this difficult time. Please keep the Whitfield family, and the men and women of our fire department in your thoughts and prayers."

Whitfield also did CrossFit, a rigorous core strength and conditioning program on a regular basis. His CrossFit gym sent this statement to Eyewitness News:

"The CrossFit Magnolia family's hearts are breaking at the loss of Steven Whitfield. Steven will be remembered as a friend, a coach, an athlete and a fierce competitor who loved Crossfit, loved fitness and loved life. Those of us who had the privilege of training with Steven are in shock at our loss. Those of us who were blessed enough to call him a friend are deeply saddened and will mourn and remember him fondly. Every member of Crossfit Magnolia holds his family, friends and loved ones up in prayer. Some of us are deeply, personally impacted by his passing and will need time to heal, but all of us are effected and will miss him dearly and will cherish his memories."
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