Man Dies in Fire While Rescuing Relatives

12:02 AM, Jan 24, 2014   |    comments
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Sumter, SC (WLTX) -- A family struggles to come together after losing one of its members who died after rescuing a relative from a burning home.

The fire happened early Wednesday in Sumter.

The family of George Johnson says without giving a thought to his own safety, he ran next door to rescue his wife's 95-year-old aunt.

Every indication from the Johnson family is that running into a burning home to rescue another person was part of 56-year-old George Johnson's character.

As they mourn his loss, they are also thankful, because they said it could have ended up worse.

The realization that she has now lost her father after an early morning blaze at a home on the 1000 block of Nathaniel Street in Sumter is still too much to take for Kendra Johnson.

She and her sister, Andrea Johnson, 25 and 29 respectively, will now have to move forward without the man they said was their very best friend. 

"He gone (sic)," said Andrea Johnson outside the home she said she lived in with her mother, Carolyn, and father. "I'm used to seeing him every day. I lived with them." Andrea Johnson said she lived there with her 4-year-old daughter. 

"From the time I wake up, to the time I go to sleep, I'm talking to my daddy," Andrea Johnson said.

Sumter Fire investigators said the blaze broke out in the den at the home at about 2:30 Wednesday morning.

George and Carolyn Johnson were woke up, alarmed, realizing the home next door where three relatives lived was engulfed in flames.

Without a second thought, the family said, George ran next door to the home, insisting on rescuing his wife's aunt, Wessie Johnson who was disabled with an amputated leg.

As smoke filled the home, George was able to lift Wessie Johnson to a window to breathe. He was found lying on the floor next to that window and later died from inhaling too much smoke, investigators said.

"Words can't really describe the feeling right now," said Kendra Johnson. "He was always willing to help others, and this shows for it."

Carolyn Johnson was in the home resting Thursday afternoon as neighbors and relatives came to support the family.

She and George would have been married for 32 years in June.

"Of course she's going to stay strong for her girls and try to stay strong, but right now, we're all we got," said Kendra Johnson. "We're just going to stay strong for one another."

Something that will likely mean drawing on their father's courage.

Wessie Johnson is resting at Tuomey hospital in Sumter.

Fire investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire.

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