As unrelenting calls from emergency dispatchers echoed in the truck bays at Fort Lauderdale Fire Station No. 2, Lt. Kevin Johns was remembered Wednesday as a dedicated leader who saved the lives of countless strangers — as well as some of his colleagues.
Johns, 48, who served nearly three decades with the department and was to retire in April, was commuting to work and changing a tire Tuesday when he was struck by a car alongside Interstate 95 in Boca Raton. He died that afternoon.
The Florida Highway Patrol said its investigation of the crash, that also involved an SUV, may take several weeks.
Florida State Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton — a decade-long advocate for driver safety who supports laws against distracted driving and texting — called upon the agency to examine the motorists’ cellphone records.
“I would like to know if the drivers had any other electronic devices in their cars … that could have potentially been a distraction,” Slosberg wrote Wednesday in a letter to the highway patrol.
“We will investigate all leads to conduct a thorough investigation,” said Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Wysocky.
Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Heiser remembered Johns, who lived in Jupiter, as a second-generation fighter of fires. He was a husband to Brenda, father of three, a grandfather and part of the 450-member family that is Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.
Fire personnel wore black mourning bands over their badges. Flags in the city were lowered to half staff.
“He was the type who led from example, a tough guy,” said Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Timothy C. Heiser. “When he showed up, I knew I had nothing to worry about.” “He was the type who led from example, a tough guy,” said Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Timothy C. Heiser. “When he showed up, I knew I had nothing to worry about.” See more videos –>
“He never seemed tired at work,” Heiser said. “When the bell went off, he would slide down the pole, get to the truck and you’d never hear a complaint … He was a role model, not just for new hires but for even seasoned veterans.”
And he fulfilled his job description.
“Many people owe their lives to him,” Heiser said. “Over a 28-year career, you figure how many calls he was on, it’s in the tens of thousands.”
Johns received the agency’s Silver Medal of Valor in March 2004 after responding to an out of control blaze that had trapped firefighters aboard a commercial vessel docked at Port Everglades, Heiser said.
“He actually saved the lives of 9 firefighters on the boat,” Heiser said. “A crew that Kevin had trained was able to get onto the vessel, and assist those firefighters with escaping before anything bad happened.”
Johns was also famous for having big hands and an unforgettable handshake.
“He was a gentle bear,” Firefighter Paramedic Scott Connor said about his friend of a dozen years. “It was like having a body builder or a gorilla shake your hands.”
Connor said he will miss Johns, who he described as “a go-to guy. You knew you’d have a good time, and you’d be safe, and no matter what was going on, he was going to be there.”
Funeral services are pending, officials said.
Ltrischitta@Tribune.com, 954-356-4233 or Twitter @LindaTrischitta
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