Hero Father Dies Trying to Save Disabled Daughter

From Dad lauded as hero for fatal rescue try (New Hampshire Union Leader, 6/9/09):

A father’s heroic attempt to save his disabled daughter in a fire ended tragically yesterday when both died in their second-floor apartment at 36 Main St.

Family friends identified the victims as Richard Johnston, 54, and Heidi Johnston, 26…

“He was such a brave man for running in there,” said Heather Brown, a neighbor of the Johnstons. “You never truly meet a hero until you hear of something like this.”

Arthur Schillinger of 37 Main St. told the New Hampshire Union Leader that he heard his doorbell ring about 5:10 a.m. yesterday. Richard Johnston was at his door, yelling the building was on fire. He had not called 911, Schillinger, because he did not have a phone.

Schillinger quickly called 911 and Johnston got his son, Kevin, who lives upstairs from Schillinger; both ran across the street to the burning apartment building. Schillinger said the senior Johnston ran into the building. The son wasn’t able to get inside…

Fire Chief Gary Johnson said the fire quickly escalated to three alarms as firefighters ran into the building searching for occupants about 5:20 a.m. They found the body of the father in the living room, he said, but the heat and intensity of the blaze put them in danger and forced them outside.

Searchers later found in a bedroom the body of the female victim, who family friends said was mentally handicapped.

Chief Johnson believes Johnston’s daughter, because of the intensity of the fire, most likely died from smoke inhalation and was dead before her father fought his way back into the building…

David Banzhoff, the lead line cook at the Corner View Restaurant on South Street in Concord, had known Richard Johnston for over seven years. Johnston, a dishwasher at the restaurant, had worked there for 10 years…

“Not seeing him come through the door is pretty tough because he’s always here,” Banzhoff said. “He was an incredible person with a giant heart. He worked constantly and he helped everyone. It’ll be tough shoes to fill. He had a heart of gold.”

Read the full article here. Thank to David, a reader, for sending me the story before shipping out to Iraq.

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