Family shares memories of father, son killed when car struck wheelchair

Posted at 9:20 PM, Dec 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-14 23:24:59-05

WEST JORDAN, Utah --  "I'm gonna miss the kisses on the forehead from my son, and curling up next to my husband at night, and feeling so safe and so protected even though he was so sick," said Rhonda Johnson.

The proud wife and mother is still in shock after learning her 44-year-old husband, Todd, and 11-year-old son, Levi, died Saturday.

The two left their West Jordan Home near 7800 South and 6700 West around 3 p.m. to go to the nearest grocery store, a Smith's located approximately a mile and a half west on 7800 South, at 5600 West. Todd, who has been in declining health for the past few years, was traveling in his electric wheelchair. His son Levi was known to ride with him.

Just after 5:30 p.m. the pair were on their way back from the store when they were struck and killed instantly by a car traveling westbound on 7800 South. The street has no paved shoulder or sidewalk along an approximately 300 foot stretch of the road, where the accident happened. However, the rest of their course along 7800 South did have a paved shoulder, sidewalks, and bike lanes.

"We're all in total shock that something like this would happen," said Rob Johnson, Todd's brother. "There's a lot of things, a lot of what ifs? A matter of a few seconds or this or that, they'd still be here with us today."

Todd was a graduate of Alta High School in 1988, a big BYU fan and a devoted family man.

He and Rhonda met online, "Back when it was taboo," she said. They married after only knowing one another for 21 days. A decision Rhonda says she's never regretted.

"He just made me feel like I was the most important thing in the whole world," she said.

Together they had six children--two girls and four boys. The oldest is currently serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Levi was the youngest. His family said he wanted to grow up to be a combination of his oldest brother and his dad.

As Todd's health declined in recent years due to complications with his kidneys, Rhonda said Levi was his dad's constant companion.

"As we were walking through a store, [Levi] would place his little hand on the small of his dad's back to make sure that he didn't fall," she told FOX 13 News, adding "He would do absolutely anything in the world for his dad."

Levi was a sixth grader at Fox Hollow Elementary School. Aside from his dad, he was also passionate about learning, Legos, and Batman. Relatives said he loved to Google anything and everything and share what he'd learned.

He also enjoyed playing with his father. Todd's illness and wheelchair didn't keep the pair from playing hide and seek around the neighborhood.

On Saturday night just before the accident, they were spotted on the roadway by a member of their LDS Bishopric, who was driving by in the opposite direction. He turned his car around after passing them, intending to catch up to Todd and Levi, turn on his hazard lights, and follow them for a short distance before the road would widen again, allowing them to move out of the lane of travel, and onto a wide shoulder.

But before he could reach them, they were struck and killed by another car.

The Johnson family said they do not blame the driver. They believe Todd and Levi's deaths were accidental, and a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Friends of the Johnson family have established a fund to help pay for funeral expenses.