Home Fire News Off-Duty Detroit firefighter drowns after saving three girls

Off-Duty Detroit firefighter drowns after saving three girls


Sarah Rahal

The Detroit News

Rescue crews have recovered the body of Detroit Fire Sgt. Sivad Johnson, who went missing after he helped save girls from drowning in the Detroit River Friday night, authorities said.

The Detroit Police Department Dive Team found the body of the 48-year-old father Saturday around 1 p.m. after a six-hour search, said Dave Fornell, deputy commissioner of the Detroit Fire Department.

Despite being off-duty at the time of the incident, Johnson’s heroic sacrifice will be labeled as a line-of-duty death with the department, Fornell said.

“They’re transporting his body to a hospital now with an escort,” Fornell said.

The incident occurred Friday when Michigan State Police dispatchers received a call about 9 p.m. from a 10-year-old girl saying she had lost her father, the agency said.

Troopers, state Department of Natural Resources officers, and city firefighters responded to the scene near the Detroit Yacht Club.

The off-duty sergeant and his 10-year-old daughter were talking a walk near the Yacht Club when they heard three young girls screaming for help from the water, Fornell told The Detroit News.

Johnson is a 26-year-veteran of the Detroit Fire Department, Fornell said.

“He’s a firefighter, he saw the girls in distress and jumped in. He’s done that his entire career,” Fornell said. “Something happened and it’s unfortunate to have lost one of our own that way.”

Another civilian and a nearby boat assisted in the rescue.

“From the civilian, we talked to last night, there were a lot of rip currents and the sergeant went out into the water,” Fornell said. “One girl was rescued by the civilian and the boat picked up the two other girls.”

The incident took nearly 45 minutes. Only after the children were safe with their parents, Johnson’s daughter realized he was missing and called 911, authorities said.

“It is believed the father may have been dragged underwater by the rip-current and no one noticed,” Michigan State Police said.

Johnson’s daughter was turned over to her grandfather.

Johnson is the third person to die in the Detroit River this week after Livonia executive Robert Chiles and the Rev. Stephen Rooney’s boat capsized on Sunday near Grosse Ile. Both were found during a five-day search by rescue teams.


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