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Published: Monday, 4/18/2005

Tragedy strikes again for area couple

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAUSEON - Eight years ago, Daniel and Lori Johnson lost their 3-year-old son and an unborn child in an auto accident near Swanton.

Saturday evening, tragedy struck again for the Fulton County family.

In what a sheriff's deputy called "a very unfortunate accident," the Metamora couple's 19-month-old daughter, Alison Brooke, died of injuries suffered when she was struck by a pickup driven by her father in a field at the southwest corner of State Rt. 108 and County Road M in Dover Township.

"That's the last thing I ever thought would happen on a Saturday afternoon," the girl's maternal grandmother, Dolores Gasche, said yesterday, tears filling her eyes. She described her daughter and son-in-law as devastated. "It's hard," Mrs. Gasche said. "This is their third loss. She's just worried people are going to think they're bad parents, because this is the second accident. It was strictly an accident, and that's what we've got to make her understand." She added: "We're kind of afraid to leave her by herself because she's so upset."

The Johnsons' son, Spencer, and their unborn boy were killed May 10, 1997, in a collision at County Road E and County Road 3 near Swanton. According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, the crash occurred when Mrs. Johnson failed to see a stop sign and drove into the intersection, where her car collided with a sport utility vehicle. At the time, Mrs. Johnson was eight months pregnant.

In a 1998 interview with The Blade, Mrs. Johnson described the grief and guilt that enveloped her after her sons died.

"I'm hoping that at some point I will come to terms with all this, that it was a mistake," she said. "That I could also have run that stop sign and nothing might have happened."

The Saturday night accident occurred as Mr. Johnson was moving his pickup away from a pop-up camper, where the family was planning to spend the night, sheriff's Sgt. Tracy Zuver said.

The truck was moving forward when its right rear hit Alison, the sergeant added.

He said it was unclear if anyone else was outside when the toddler was struck.

Sheriff's deputies and Wauseon firefighters were summoned to the lot northwest of town by a 911 call about 7:40 p.m. When they arrived, they found Mrs. Johnson, a nurse at Toledo Hospital, performing CPR on her daughter, Sergeant Zuver said.

An emergency helicopter transported Alison to Toledo Hospital, where the girl was pronounced dead about 9 p.m., the sergeant said.

"Lori said she went in the helicopter with them, and they did everything they could do for her," Mrs. Gasche said. "They didn't quit until she was gone."

The girl's grandmother said she and her husband, John, rushed to the hospital after getting word of the accident.

"We got to hold her, and that kind of helped," Mrs. Gasche said.

Alison's grandparents said they would remember her as a fun-loving girl with twinkling blue-green eyes who enjoyed being read to and having pillow fights with her older twin brothers, Cory and Conner, who are 4 1/2.

"She knew how to get what she wanted," Mrs. Gasche said, laughing. "She got her point across. She liked to play rough."

Mrs. Gasche said her daughter and son-in-law had bought the lot at the corner of Route 108 and County Road M about six months ago and were planning to put a trailer on the property later this year and move there.

Yesterday, worshippers at North Dover Methodist Church held hands and prayed for the Johnsons, who are members of the Wauseon congregation.

"They're just wonderful people, really," said Grace Colon, a family friend and church member.

"They've been through so much."

Mrs. Colon, who lives down the road from the site of the accident, said she had stopped by the family's campsite Saturday evening on the way to visit her sister, who lives around the corner on Route 108.

"I had just walked down there and visited with Lori and the baby, 10 minutes before it happened," Mrs. Colon said.

When they finished talking, she continued on to her sister's house. When Mrs. Colon arrived, her sister said a friend had called her after hearing on a police scanner that a girl had been struck near Route 108 and County Road M.

Mrs. Colon said she knew right away what had happened and was stunned that another accident had befallen one of the couple's children.

"I said, 'Fern, I've got to go,' because there was no other little girl around there. ... It just felt like, it can't be. I had a hollow, sort of a sick feeling inside."

Contact Steve Murphy at: smurphy@theblade.com or 419-724-6078.



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