A hero is honored: Detroit fireboat named for sergeant who drowned in Belle Isle rescue

September 01, 2020, 8:52 AM

Family members, firefighting comrades and city officials paid tribute Monday to Sgt. Sivad Johnson, a 26-year veteran of the Detroit Fire Department who drowned saving three girls at Belle Isle.

Sgt. Sivad Johnson: "He placed himself on duty." (Photo: Facebook/Dallas Walker III)

"Our family is uniquely strong and we will get through this together," younger brother Jamal Johnson, also a second-generation city firefighter, is quoted by The Detroit News as saying.

"He's always had my back and a lot of others and now we have the opportunity to have his. ...

"I've always followed in his footsteps, and I knew that was the right direction to take. He was many things for many people, but he was more than a brother to me — he was my best friend."

The sergeant, whose 50th birthday would have been this Saturday, was off-duty and island with his 10-year-old daughter Hayden on Aug. 21 when he jumped in the river near the Detroit Yacht Club aftrer hearing cries for help. A boater and another civilian brought the unharmed girls to shore, but Johnson apparently got caught in a rip tide.

Admirers spoke Monday outside Detroit Public Safety Headquarters during a memorial ceremony (videos below) where Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said a new fireboat is named in his honor, Ariana Taylor reports for The News, which has a gallery of 24 photos.

The memories shared by many, including Mayor Mike Duggan and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, told a story of a courageous and respected man.

"Anyone could spend one day or 1,000 days with him and easily feel like you have a great friend or brother for life," said Roger Harper, a firefighter who worked with Johnson. ...

Tribute to a fallen hero (Photo: Twitter/City of Detroit)

It was announced thgat Johnson's last act of service will now be classified as a line-of-duty death. ... "When he faced this life-or-death situation, he chose the life of those children ... he placed himself on duty," Jones said.

That status brings extra city benefits for the sergeant's survivors, who also inlcude a 17-year-old daughter, Kyndall.

Duggan gave the Spirit of Detroit award to family members in the hero's honor. Bill Johnson, the brothers' father, was a firefighter for 20 years.

Fox 2 News video:

CBS Detroit video:

Read more:  The Detroit News

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