Michigan firefighter dies saving 3 girls from Detroit river as daughter watched him get dragged under by currents

Sergeant Sivad Johnson was walking with his daughter near the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle when the incident happened


                            Michigan firefighter dies saving 3 girls from Detroit river as daughter watched him get dragged under by currents
Belle Isle Detroit Michigan (Getty Images)

DETROIT, MICHIGAN: A firefighter has died while saving three young girls from the Detroit River. Sergeant Sivad Johnson reportedly dived into rip currents dispute being off-duty to save the lives while his ten-year-old daughter watched from the shore. The 48-year-old’s body was taken out from the river Saturday afternoon, August 22, after a six-hour-long hour search.

According to reports, Johnson went on to save the girls’ lives on Friday night, August 21, when he was walking with his daughter near the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle. As he heard the screams of the girls, he soon rushed for their help. A civilian and a nearby boat also went for the help, The Daily Mail reported.

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

Johnson’s daughter called 911 when after the 45-minute rescue, her father did not return to the shore. Authorities searched for him, but it was eventually halted because of the darkness and resumed the next morning. “It is believed the father may have been dragged underwater by the rip-current and no one noticed,” Michigan State Police said of Johnson in a statement. 

Fornell said that Johnson’s sacrifice, who served the Detroit Fire Department for 26 years, will be branded as a line-of-duty death. “First responders are never off-duty. He saw people that needed help and he didn't hesitate to jump in the water to save them,” state police said.

The firefighter was known for his good work as four years ago, he was honored with a plaque for saving the life of an unconscious man during a fire. He also received the department's medal for valor a few years back. In 2018, Johnson spoke live on stage at a Moth Radio Hour, where he shared his experiences as a firefighter. He told the listeners how he once entered a burning house and tried to save an elderly woman who died. “I know we can't save everybody, but we try,” Johnson said on the podcast.

In another incident, a body camera clip showed police and firefighters jumping into cold water to rescue kids after a car landed upside down in the Jordan Surplus Canal. The car submerged in the water after the driver lost control of it and risked her as well as the lives of four children — ages 17, 16, 15, and 2.

However, the driver and the two oldest kids managed to escape from the car, the youngest ones remained trapped when local police responded to the scene to save them. “With no thought to personal safety, officers immediately stripped their gear and attempted a daring rescue of these two children. It was dark. The water was cold. But these officers did not hesitate to come to the aid and work to save lives. I am proud of them,” Police Chief Mike Brown said.

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