Teen hailed as hero for quick-thinking after accident
by Kara Lopp
Camden Johnson doesn’t like the term “hero,” but it’s what his fellow Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department members are calling him these days.
The 16-year-old junior firefighter and rising junior at Independence High School was fishing with two friends near Oak Island June 14 when a small helicopter crashed into the ocean near the boat he was riding in. The trio were the first on scene to help and Johnson lifted a female passenger from the water, keeping her head and neck straight in case of injuries until the Coast Guard arrived. The friends saw the helicopter crash as they were heading to the pier.
“I was just in the right place at the right time. I’m glad everyone is proud of me, but I’m not a hero,” Camden said. “We turned off the engine and floated next to (the helicopter). That’s how close we were.”
Johnson’s too young to have any formal firefighting or emergency medical training, but he’s been around the volunteer department long enough to know the basics, he said. His father, Craig, is a long-time volunteer firefighter with the department and his grandfather, Buck Johnson, was a Charlotte firefighter and people still remember him fondly.
“It makes me want to follow in his shoes,” Camden said, adding he already knows he wants to make firefighting his career. “It’s just the whole community aspect of it. The fire station is like a home away from home.”
According to news reports, the helicopter was an R-22 Mariner with water pontoons owned by Boatpix.com, a company that takes photos from the air. The pilot, 22-year-old Will Mistrot, had one passenger, Marie Kojimoto. Neither suffered life-threatening injuries.