Friday, May 14, 1999


By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Christine and Jack Johnson, parents of Sacred Falls landslide
victim Sara Johnson, and Sara's fiance, Mike Heckman, talked
about the tragedy yesterday. Sara's body was recovered as her
parents visited the state park Wednesday. Heckman, the only
survivor of his group of four at the popular hiking and swimming
spot, was released from Castle Hospital yesterday.

Parents, fiance
of Falls victim
thank rescuers

They lost Sara Johnson and
two of her friends in the Mother's
Day tragedy but remember a
woman who 'touched everyone'

By Harold Morse


Sara Johnson had a quick wit. She knew what she wanted. She was always happy. She had a beautiful smile.

"She touched everyone that she worked with. Everyone loved her," said fiance Michael Heckman, who was with Sara Johnson in her last moments at the Mother's Day landslide at Sacred Falls.

Heckman and Sara's parents, Jack and Christine "Katie" Johnson, said they have wonderful memories of her.

Her body was the last of eight to be found.

In an informal news conference yesterday at Coconut Plaza Hotel, the three said they appreciated the kindness shown them.

The Johnsons arrived from California just in time for the recovery, and Heckman was released yesterday from Castle Hospital with a broken foot and injured arm.

During the landslide, Heckman helped some injured people but felt as though he was going to pass out. Sara was nowhere around. "A couple of people helped me down the trail," he said.

He told others about Sara, and called from the hospital to make sure it was known she was missing.

"From the autopsy, she died a quick death, so that was a good thing," he said.

"We were all having a good time," he said referring to himself, Sara, Sara's best friend Jennifer Johnson and Jennifer's Navy brother Mark Johnson. Jennifer and Mark were not related to Sara.

Jennifer, 24, was killed in the slide, and Mark, 29, died later of injuries.

Sara Johnson, 24, was a United Airlines mechanic, working on wide-bodied 747s. Her father and Heckman are both United mechanics, too.

Christine Johnson, a 911 operator with the Los Angeles Police Department, said she was at work when the news came.

"It's so different when it's your own flesh and blood," she sighed. "They said I had an emergency call from my husband."

She sensed it meant Sara.

"I went to the phone as quick as I could." She then called her brother. "What happened to my baby?" she asked.

She was told there had been an avalanche and that Sara was missing.

Jack Johnson recalled the shock. "I've heard it said that nobody knows what it's like until it happens to you. ...

"The next days were a blur," he said.

"Those rescuers -- we can't ever say enough thanks," Katie said.

"Maybe some of the people who helped so much left before we could really thank them," Jack added.

Another victim of the landslide, Senior Master Sgt. Scott T. Huling, of the 15th Security Forces Squadron, was remembered in memorial services this morning at the Chapel Center of Hickam Air Force Base.

Huling is survived by his wife and their three young sons.

Contributions may be made to the family at any First Hawaiian Bank branch, or by sending a check payable to:

"Friends of the Huling Family"
c/o Capt. Kevin Rhyne
15th Security Forces Squadron
505 Hangar Ave.
Hickam Air Force Base Hawaii 96853.

Scholarship in victims' name

Star-Bulletin staff

The parents of Sacred Falls victims Mark and Jennifer Johnson are looking at starting a scholarship fund in memory of their children, a Chaminade University spokesman said.

Len and Sheila Johnson of West Falls, Calif., had previously considered a building-painting project but now feel a scholarship fund would be more appropriate and lasting, said Chaminade spokesman Peter Wolf.

He said the details will be released later.

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