Body recovered in Johnson County flood debris identified as man who tried to save others
The fourth drowning victim found after recent flooding in Johnson County reportedly helped several family members to safety before being swept away while trying to rescue his grandmother.
Searchers found the body of Scott Johnson, who went by Scott Free, on Friday night, according to authorities and a family member.
Relatives said Johnson, 34, had helped his father, uncle and sister escape the swift, fast-rising waters, and lifted his nephew high enough into a tree to be above the water.
Several members of the family lived in adjacent homes.
Johnson had gone back to get his grandmother, 74-year-old Willa Mae Pennington, from her mobile home when the flood swept both of them away, Johnson County Coroner J.R. Frisby said.
“He actually died trying to do heroic things,” Frisby said Saturday.
The flood happened Monday afternoon when more than 4 inches of rain fell in less than two hours, pushing Big Mudlick Creek out of its banks and devastating an area several miles long between Flatgap and Staffordsville.
The flood destroyed scores of homes, including many mobile homes pushed off their foundations and smashed into rubble.
Search crews found Pennington’s body Tuesday.
It took several more days to find Johnson because his body had been washed under a smashed mobile home. Debris then packed in around it, hiding the body, Frisby said.
Johnson’s body had been carried downstream for several miles from the spot where he lived with his grandmother, said Samantha Johnson, a cousin. Johnson said her cousin worked at a convenience store and was a talented musician.
“He loved music. He loved life,” Samantha Johnson said. “Every time you seen him, he was always smiling.”
Preston Funeral Home in Paintsville is handling arrangements for Johnson.
Police, firefighters, National Guard troops and volunteers worked for days to find the victims of the flood.
State police said early in the week that authorities could not account for eight people, though they noted some might have left before the flooding or might have been stuck in homes without phone service and couldn’t check in.
Authorities pared down the number of the missing as they received additional information.
Johnson was the last person considered missing as a result of the flood, police said.
In addition to Johnson and Pennington, the flooding killed Richard Blair, 22, who was disabled and could not get out of his home as the water carried it away, and Herman Eddie May Sr., 56.
May was swept away after he got out of his sport-utility vehicle as the water rose around it, police said.
Frisby said all four victims of the flood drowned.