MOREHEAD CITY — Hundreds of firefighters and first responders from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia joined family and friends Sunday to pay tribute to Atlantic Beach Fire Chief Adam Snyder.

Firefighters, including Chief Snyder’s crew from Atlantic Beach, wore official dress as they filled the Crystal Coast Civic Center to remember the beloved chief, 46, who died March 11 from injuries sustained in a snow skiing accident in Virginia.

Along with about 800 attending the celebration of life service at the Crystal Coast Civic Center, more than 75 people watched a live stream of the service at One Harbor Church in Morehead City, which served as the overflow crowd location.

Among those attending at the Crystal Coast Civic Center were members of the Emerald Isle Fire Department, including Assistant Fire Chief Don Askew and Capt. Bruce Norman.

“Captain Norman and I have known Chief Snyder since he started as a lifeguard in Atlantic Beach, then he worked his way up the ranks to become a great leader. He will be sadly missed,” Assistant Chief Askew said.

Capt. Norman agreed.

“It’s just a great loss throughout the county. He wasn’t just a fire chief, he was a friend. He wouldn’t just ask about the fire service, he would ask you about your family.”

According to posts on several local fire departments’ Facebook pages, personnel from other agencies across the state temporarily served Sunday so local department staff could attend Chief Snyder’s service.

In order to honor their chief at the end of the service, members of the Atlantic Beach Fire Department loaded Chief Snyder’s casket onto the fire truck that he and his men served together on for many years. The truck was parked in front of the main entrance of the civic center, and was decorated with a wreath on the front and purple and black drape on the side.

His men also loaded Chief Snyder’s jacket, helmet and much of his gear used to save many lives in the 20 years he served in Atlantic Beach.

The men draped his casket with an American flag, then quietly stood around the casket as the fire truck rode from the civic center down through the west campus of Carteret Community College, where Chief Snyder taught for 14 years.

The crew then transported the casket back to Munden Funeral Home & Crematory Inc.

Many county businesses honored Chief Snyder throughout the week by putting messages on their marquees, thanking him for his service and encouraging residents to pray for the Atlantic Beach Fire Department and family.

Other businesses, like Chick-fil-A in Morehead City, held events to raise money for Chief Snyder’s family. Chick-fil-A raised $4,400 Thursday by having 10 percent of the day’s sales donated to the family.

Chick-fil-A owner Patrick Conneely said in a telephone interview Monday that the turnout and money raised was the largest he has seen since the business opened 10 years ago.

Mr. Conneely, who was a friend of Chief Snyder’s, said he also attended One Harbor to watch the live stream of the service Sunday.

“Chick-fil-A was thankful to be able to help his family, and the response was overwhelming,” Mr. Conneely said. “We saw over 3,000 people Thursday. He was just such a big personality and affected so many people in our community. You just can’t replace a leader like that in a community.”

Kountry Kitchen in Morehead City built a display to honor Chief Snyder’s memory and dedication to the community.

Lt. Danny Moreno, a part-time employee and volunteer at Broad and Gales Creek Fire Department and part-time cook at the restaurant, worked with Chief Snyder almost his entire career.

Lt. Moreno and the waitresses at the restaurant were inspired to build the tribute, which displays the late chief’s picture, jacket, helmet and boots.  

According to his obituary, Chief Snyder served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a rescue swimmer and received his paramedic training after discharge. He furthered his education with associate degrees in fire protection technology and emergency medical science from Coastal Carolina Community College.

Chief Snyder’s career in public safety in North Carolina spanned 22 years, according to the obituary. He was hired as a paramedic with Onslow County EMS in 1997 and also worked as a lifeguard with the town of Atlantic Beach. He was hired full time as a firefighter/EMT for the Atlantic Beach Fire Department in 1999. His hard work, dedication and leadership qualities got him quickly promoted. In 2005, he was appointed to the position of chief of fire/EMS for Atlantic Beach, a position he held 15 years.

The ABFD flourished under his leadership, and he started many new programs, according to the obituary. These include the first Medium Duty Rescue Company, first N.C. certified Ocean/Surf Rescue Agency in the county, first N.C. Certified Confined Rescue Agency, first N.C. certified High Angle Rescue Agency, first IANTD Public Safety Dive Rescue/Recovery Team and the first Pipes & Drums. The ABFD also created the first technical rescue deep-water dive team in the state of North Carolina and developed and implemented the Atlantic Beach Junior Lifeguard Program.

In addition, Chief Snyder was heavily involved in the education of EMTs, paramedics and firefighters.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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