A state trooper said Sunday that a preliminary investigation shows that a volunteer firefighter likely died after being hit by a vehicle after he fled a fire truck trapped in a wildfire-consumed pasture in Eastland County on Friday afternoon.
Senior State Trooper Phillip "Sparky" Dean told The Associated Press on Sunday that Greg Simmons was killed by blunt force trauma, citing a preliminary autopsy report by a medical examiner in Fort Worth.
"I believe at the bottom of my heart that this was a traffic-pedestrian fatality because of limited visibility, where the firefighters in the area couldn't see and any cars driving down that road couldn't see," Dean said.
In a news release, city of Eastland officials said Saturday that the preliminary autopsy report states that Simmons died of an accidental blow to his upper body.
An Eastland County official initially said Simmons jumped out of a fire truck, apparently was overcome by smoke and fell in a ditch before the fire reached him.
Eastland officials said the Texas Department of Public Safety will lead the investigation and work with the state fire marshal.
Dean said DPS began investigating after the medical examiner's report showed blunt force trauma as the cause of death, and an investigator found that Simmons' injuries were consistent with someone being hit by a vehicle.
Fireman was longtime volunteer
Simmons, 50, was an Eastland volunteer fireman for 11 years, the Eastland Fire Department said.
He was with the Sachse Fire Department for 10 years before moving to Eastland, the Eastland department said.
"Greg was a seasoned veteran and invaluable member of the department and community and we are all at a loss for words at this time," Eastland Fire Chief Phillip Arther said in a news release.
Simmons is survived by his wife, Carrie, and two daughters.
"To say we are shocked and saddened by this tragedy is a huge understatement," Eastland Mayor Mark Pipkin said in a news release. "This loss makes us even more appreciative of the dedication of our many firemen and other emergency personnel. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Carrie and the rest of Greg's family."
The 3,000-acre fire Simmons was battling began near Kokomo and moved toward Gorman.\
The mayor has ordered the flags to be lowered to half staff in honor of Simmons.
Funeral services have been set for Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Leon River Cowboy Church.
NBC DFW's Scott Gordon contributed to this report.