Detroit Firefighter Drowns After Trying to Save 3 Girls from River: 'He Was Always a Hero'


A 48-year-old fire sergeant from Michigan is being remembered as a hero after losing his life last week while trying to save a group of girls from drowning.

Sgt. Sivad Johnson of the Detroit Fire Department was visiting Detroit River on Friday with his 10-year-old daughter when he and several others went into the water after noticing a group of girls in distress, according to the Detroit Free Press. Johnson's daughter phoned 911 a short time later when her father didn't return to shore.

Johnson's body was found on Saturday morning by divers from the Detroit Police Department and Detroit Fire Department, authorities announced on Twitter.

"He was my idol," Jamal Johnson, Johnson’s brother, told WDIV. "He was always a hero to me."

According to CNN, there were three girls in the river at the time of the incident. Two were saved by a boat that was nearby, while another bystander in the area rescued the third girl.

"He and two other civilians heard either one child or up to three children struggling in the water," Detroit Fire Department Executive Fire Commissioner Eric Jones told WDIV. "Sgt. Johnson, along with other civilians, entered the water to make a rescue of the children."

Johnson — a father of two — was a 26-year veteran of Detroit Fire and received the Medal of Valor in 2017.

"I love him and I just want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart," Jamal Johnson told WDIV. "We just want to ask everybody for your continued prayers. I’m speechless."

A GoFundMe has been set up to benefit Johnson's family and has raised over $77,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. Dozens of donors left heartfelt messages on the donation page in memory of the fallen firefighter, with many calling him a "true hero."

"This was my friend, my BEST childhood friend," Andre Greenwood wrote. "I pray for peace to his family and for God to keep his daughters covered. This man was and always has been a solid and upstanding guy. I know that God has a purpose and a plan beyond our understanding. Love you Sivad, Job well done Brother."

"A true hero and a magnificent man," Jack Rosenzweig added. "If only this world had more people like him. Condolences to his grieving family."

Johnson's death comes amid a tumultuous month for accidents at rivers around the country. Eighteen-year-old Raina Lynn Neeland of Minnesota died on Aug. 17 while trying to save her young relatives from "turbulent water" in a river.

On Aug. 5, 29-year-old Manjeet Singh was killed after helping to save three children who were overtaken by a strong current at a California river. One of the children, 8-year-old Samantha Cruz-Pedro, died a week after she was retrieved from the water.

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