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Young family killed in bridge collapse mourned

PARIS, Ark. (BP)–Residents in two small Arkansas towns are mourning the loss of a young family killed when their car plunged over a collapsed bridge into the Arkansas River May 26.

James Johnson, his wife, Misty, along with their 3-year-old daughter, Shea Nicole, were driving to the Tulsa Zoo and were just two miles from their exit when the bridge disappeared beneath them. The Johnsons lived in Lavaca, Ark., and worked in Paris, Ark.

The Johnsons were among 14 people killed when a barge rammed the bridge, causing it to fall into the rain-swollen river.

James was a member of the First Baptist Church, Paris, Ark. His mother, Juanita Johnson, and Misty’s parents, Hursel and Linda Henson, also are members of the Southern Baptist church.

James was a truck driver for Wonder-Hostess Baking Co. and Misty was a clerk and bookkeeper for Rose Drug in Paris. The couple had lived in Lavaca for a few years so James could be closer to his job.

Their bodies were recovered May 27. Shea’s body was found floating about a half-mile downriver on May 29.

“We’re all just hoping it’s a dream,” said Steve Rice, a pharmacy technician at the drug store where Misty worked.

Joyce Scrivner, secretary at First Baptist Church, said she had known James since kindergarten and had known Misty since the age of 4.

Tim Prock, pastor of the church, said the church had been providing food for the family as well as visiting and praying with them.

“You just do what you can,” he said. “The only thing we can do is love them.”

Prock said his message on June 2 is titled, “What is really important in life?”

According to neighbors of the family, James will be remembered as a practical joker who once stunk up the neighborhood when he disposed of fish heads in an upwind field. Misty will be remembered as a friendly woman who loved antiques and craft fairs.

Funeral services for the family will be held June 1 at 1 p.m. at First Baptist.
Information for this article was contributed by Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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  • Todd Starnes