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Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2005

Family copes with son's death in hunting accident

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Curtis Johnson's love of the woods and streams began with a fishing trip when he was 2.

By Jill Hoffman
381-1679
The New River Valley Current

Christmas Eve morning, Curtis Johnson was on his way out to do what he loved - head to the mountains and hunt - when a muzzle-loader unexpectedly went off and killed him, according to Johnson's relatives.

Johnson's father, Earl Johnson, said Monday that Giles County Sheriff's Office officials told the family that his son was at a friend's house when he reached out to accept the gun from the friend and it fired, sending a bullet through his left hand and chin.

"I hope he didn't suffer very much from it," Earl Johnson said.

Curtis Johnson, who lived in Pearisburg, had loaned the gun to his friend, his father said. "This boy hadn't been hunting too much. He wasn't too familiar with it."

The Giles County Sheriff's Office did not return phone calls for this story.

The friend is now distraught as is the Johnson family. Everyone is struggling with insomnia and panic attacks.

"I take a pill to try to sleep," Johnson's mother, Judy, said. "I wake up crying. I go to sleep crying."

His father doesn't sleep.

Curtis Johnson, 31-year-old fiance to Melinda Turner of Narrows and father to 11-year-old Courtney, was a sportsman before anything else. He would grab a biscuit on the run at his mother's house before heading to the streams or mountains.

In January, he beat the state record for catching a trout but never turned the fish in for recognition. His house shows evidence of his marksman skills, from mounted bobcats to foxes.

Earl Johnson first took his son fishing at the age of 2, when Curtis caught his first trout. "It was in his blood," his father said.

While attending Giles High School, Curtis Johnson met his fiancee. Johnson graduated in 1991, and the two had a daughter a few years later.

"They was together for 15 years," Earl Johnson said. "I never saw two kids love each other more than they did."

Turner is "taking it pretty hard," and Courtney, who is quiet like her father, hasn't shed any tears yet. Earl Johnson said, "I don't think she understands what's going on yet."

During Curtis Johnson's 12-hour shifts at the New River Foundry in Radford, he drove a forklift truck. But he was never too tired to help a family member or friend.

"If we needed a favor, all we had to do was ask," Judy Johnson said about her son. "He said, 'Mom, I'll do that for you.'"

She was on her way to church in January when Curtis phoned her about his record trout. She insisted he bring the fish by before church. A photograph ran in the local newspaper.

"There's nothing that can explain the loss," Judy Johnson said. "Next to God's love is a mother's love. I just can't imagine life without him."

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