Archive for Friday, March 31, 1995

March 31, 1995

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Services were scheduled today for the son of a former Douglas County sheriff who was killed in an accident Wednesday.

David Johnson was the kind of guy who was just fun to be around.

That's what family members and friends are remembering as they try to come to terms with his death Wednesday morning in a two-vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 24, about 1-1/2 miles west of the Douglas-Jefferson county line.

"He was the friendliest character I've known," said Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson, who met Johnson when Johnson was only a toddler. Johnson, Lawrence, was the son of Shirley and Rex Johnson, former Douglas County sheriff who hired Anderson in 1965.

"David would seek you out and have a conversation with you anywhere," Anderson said. "Even when you were driving down the road in a strange car, he would identify you and wave at you."

Anderson recalled how he and Johnson, 31, almost made a game of seeing who could identify the other first when they met on the highway. He said Johnson would almost always spot him first and give a blast on the airhorn of whatever semi-truck he was driving that day.

Johnson, a heavy-equipment hauler for NR Hamm Cos., Perry, died shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday in one of the semi-tractor trailer rigs he so loved to drive.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Johnson was westbound on U.S. 24 when his truck collided nearly head-on with an eastbound Plymouth minivan that had crossed the center line. Upon impact the 82,000-pound, rubber-tired highloader Johnson was hauling on a low-boy trailer slid into the back of the cab of the truck. He was killed instantly.

The driver of the minivan, Robert G. Cernech, 38, a tool and die maker from Kansas City, Kan., remained in critical condition this morning in an intensive care unit at the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

A KHP trooper has confirmed that open containers of beer and liquor were found in Cernech's vehicle and that possible alcohol usage by Cernech was being investigated.

All of Hamm's quarry and waste management operations were to close this afternoon for Johnson's funeral, according to Charlie Sedlock, division manager at Hamm's corporate office in Perry. Johnson had worked for Hamm four years and was en route to Valley Falls at the time of the accident.

Sedlock said he believed Johnson was the first Hamm employee to be killed while on the job in about 20 years.

"He was just a great guy," Sedlock said. "Always real cheery, always willing to lend a hand regardless of the situation."

Rex Johnson said he would always remember how his son loved his family -- wife, Karen, and sons Colton John, 4, and Jake Bradley, 2 -- and his job.

"He loved to hunt," the elder Johnson said. "He played a little golf. Probably his biggest asset was he always loved people. He was always there to help anybody who needed help. He loved living."

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