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Detroit Fire Sergeant Drowned After Trying to Rescue Two Girls from Detroit River: ‘He Was Always A Hero to Me’

The body of a veteran Detroit firefighter was recovered from the Detroit River on Aug. 22, a day after he dived in to try to save some young girls from drowning. Sivad Johnson was off duty near Detroit’s Belle Isle when three girls began to have trouble while swimming in the water.

The body of 49-year-old Sgt. Sivad Johnson (above) was recovered on Saturday afternoon, a day after he jumped into the Detroit River to save some girls in distress. (Photo: Detroit Fire Department)

“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 explained during a news conference. “Sgt. Johnson, along with other civilians, entered the water to make a rescue of the children.”

The 49-year-old Johnson dove in to help but never made it out. One of the girls was saved by another civilian and the other two were picked up by a boat. They were taken home by their families after the rescue.

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Johnson’s 10-year-old daughter called the police when she noticed her father did not return to the shore of Belle Isle, a nearly 1,000-acre island park in the Detroit River. Authorities searched for him until the 3 a.m. Saturday morning. His body was located on Saturday afternoon. Authorities believe he was taken underwater by a rip current.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan expressed his condolences after Johnson’s body was found.

“I just want the Johnson family to know the thoughts of every single Detroiter is with Sivad Johnson and the family today,” Duggan said.

Jamal Johnson, the victim’s brother, said the firefighter was his “his “best friend.”

“He was my idol,” said Jamal Johnson told WDIV. “He was always a hero to me.”

Sivad Johnson is survived by his 10 and 17-year-old daughters, according to a GoFundMe campaign created to help his family. He was a 26-year veteran of the Detroit Fire Department. His father and brother are both retired firemen. In 2017, Sivad Johnson received the Medal of Valor.

“From what I hear from the people who worked with him, he was a tremendous leader, a fireman’s fireman, he touched a lot of people,” Detroit Fire Department Director Dave Fornell told The Detroit Free Press. “The biggest thing was he jumped in the river there to rescue some kids he didn’t even know. He was off duty and with his 10-year-old daughter.”

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