FORT WORTH -- The woman whose body was recovered Wednesday in the Trinity River was 19 years old and drowned after falling from a low water dam into the river, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner has ruled.
The young woman’s name was Brandy Johnson and lived in Fort Worth. Her death was accidental, the medical examiner says. Her mother said she was pregnant.
"She had on a heavy coat and boots," her mother, Shakara Johnson, said. "And she was five months pregnant."
On Wednesday, divers pulled a body from about 12 feet of water in the middle of the Trinity River near the 2500 block of Parkview. Witnesses inside a nearby office building heard screams and saw someone struggling in the river.
But by the time they reached the scene, it was too late. Investigators said the spot where Johnson was found is 100 feet away from a low water dam. The medical examiner says she slipped off of it.
Her family says she was late for a job interview on the other side of the river. She slipped and fell at a spot where just a few inches of water rush over the dam through a chute cut out for kayakers.
Johnson believes her daughter crossed on the stones because she was desperate to save time after either getting onto the wrong bus or getting off at a wrong stop. This is the third drowning in three years in the same area –– including a mother who tried to rescue her daughter along with a man rushing to save a child he wanted to adopt.
"It looks like it is an attraction," Johnson said. "That it is something for you to go down, walk across and enjoy. That's how it appears."
A spokesman for the Tarrant Regional Water District says low water dams control flow and silting. People stand on them to fish. There are two warning signs where Brandy Johnson slipped and fell, including a no crossing sign anchored in the stones in the river. They are often ignored.
Johnson said she does not believe her daughter fully understood the risk.
"It shouldn't be accessible or they should make it safe," she said, wiping away tears.
Tarrant Regional spokesman Chad Lorance said it's not clear what more can be done. A fence is impractical and signs don't seem to be a deterrent, he said.
Meanwhile, Johnson said Brandy was getting her life on track. She was taking courses at Tarrant County College and work her way toward independence.
"She was trying to get her own place and prepare for her baby," Johnson said. "She was really excited about being a mother. It wasn't what I wanted for her at 19, but she was really excited."
As for herself, Johnson said she and her husband can hardly bear the grief.
She says, simply, "I am broken."