Detroit Firefighter Dies a Hero, Gives Life To Help Save 3 Girls from Drowning


A Detroit fire sergeant is being hailed as a hero after losing his life while saving a group of girls from drowning in the Detroit River on the evening of Aug. 21.

Sgt. Sivad Johnson, 48, was near the river with his 10-year-old daughter when they heard three girls yelling for help in the water.

He, along with other bystanders, dived into the water in an attempt to save them, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Two of the distressed girls were saved by a nearby boat and another was saved by a civilian bystander, but Sgt. Johnson never returned to shore.

His daughter called 911 and a search team began looking for the off-duty fire sergeant.

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Divers from Michigan State Police and the Detroit Fire Department found his body the following day, MSP reported.

“It is believed the father may have been dragged underwater by the rip-current and no one noticed,” the department wrote on Twitter.

He is survived by his two daughters, ages 17 and 10, his brother, and his father, according to WDIV-TV.

Even though he died while off duty, Dave Fornell, deputy commissioner of the Detroit Fire Department, told The Detroit News that Sgt. Johnson’s death will be considered a line-of-duty death.

“From what I hear from the people who worked with him, he was a tremendous leader, a firemen’s fireman, he touched a lot of people,” Fornell said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “The biggest thing was he jumped in the river there to rescue some kids he didn’t even know.”

In 2018, Sgt. Johnson spoke during a live on-stage episode of “Moth Radio Hour” and detailed the courage and sacrifice his job required.

He told the story of a call that almost cost him his life when he was briefly caught inside of a burning home. Only moments after escaping, he and a team of firefighters went back into the home to save an elderly woman who was still inside.

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They were able to successfully bring her outside to receive emergency medical attention, but learned she later died from smoke inhalation.

“I know we can’t save everybody,” he said, “but we try.”

In 2017, the Detroit Public Safety Foundation awarded Sgt. Johnson with the Medal of Valor at the Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony for selflessly saving a victim during an incident that same year.

After his tragic death, the foundation wrote, “We honored Sergeant Sivad Johnson in 2017 for saving a life, while risking his own safety.

“We again stand in awe of his service, as he made the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to save another person’s life. Sergeant Johnson, you lived and died a hero.”

Sgt. Johnson worked with the Detroit Fire Department for 26 years before his death and the community is rallying around his family as they mourn his death.

“He was my idol,” Jamal Johnson, Sgt. Sivad Johnson’s brother, told WDIV. “He was always a hero to me.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help support his family during this difficult time. As of Wednesday afternoon, over $88k had been raised with thousands of donors leaving heartfelt messages.

“This was my friend, my BEST childhood friend. I pray for peace to his family and for God to keep his daughters covered,” Andre Greenwood wrote. “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.”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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