Victim's tearful mom issues Trinity River safety plea

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 7:42 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 19 at 9:30 PM

NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE

FORT WORTH — Sharkara Guinn Johnson walked slowly down a ramp leading to a stone and concrete dam across the river at Trinity Park. She dabbed at her eyes.

Tuesday morning's visit was her first to the site where her daughter drowned in January.

"I really couldn't bring myself to do it," she said. "I've wanted to so many times."

"It doesn't look like it would sweep you away," she added, after taking it all in. "Doesn't look strong enough to sweep you away."

Water is calm above the dam, but rushes through a chute in the middle, just a few inches deep, and wide enough for a canoe.

Brandy Johnson, 19, was pregnant, and desperate to get to a job interview on the east side of the river when she tried to make it across that chute.

"Those stairs are saying 'come on down,'" Mrs. Guinn Johnson said, gesturing at the stone steps leading down to the dam. Brandy tried to cross a low water dam not meant to be a crossing.

Before visiting the Trinity, Guinn Johnson addressed a meeting of the Tarrant Regional Water District board.

"I would like to ask you," she began nervously, "if there are any plans to alleviate the invitation that that section of the river presents to the public?"

She wasn't alone.

A man named Andy Nold also rose to speak. Nold couldn't get to Brandy Johnson when he saw her thrash and scream and disappear in the water.

Nold was six floors up. His office overlooks the site where three people have drowned and others nearly died in recent years.

Still, he wonders if he did all he could by calling 911 and racing to the river. So he put the same question to the TRWD board.

"Next time you hear of a problem at this crossing have you done everything to make sure it doesn't happen again?" Nold asked.

"We are very concerned about anyone losing their life, of course," replied board president Victor Henderson.

The water district did add several more warning signs a few days ago, but says it can't put barriers in the floodway. It's working on collapsible signs that would be more prominent.

Brandy's mom believes there must be some way to save another family from her pain; pain made worse by what happened last July 4. Her son, now 11, was pulled unconscious from a swimming pool. It wasn't clear he would survive. She said he spent five days in intensive care.

Sharkara Guinn Johnson isn't just wondering how much she can do. She's wondering how much she can take.

Her thoughts poured out as she stared into the river reflecting the sky.

"In the end, my daughter is still gone. And whatever I didn't have, I still won't have."

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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