After losing his daughter in April, a father’s heartbreak doubles when his son drowns in a Tennessee lake

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The pain of burying a child is something that Calvin Johnson knows too well. Only two months since the father lost his daughter in a deadly crash, he is now also grieving the death of his 24-year-old son, who drowned while swimming in a local lake.

On Thursday, May 25–right before the start of the Memorial Day weekend–Ke’Von Smith Johnson, 24, was at Tennessee’s Percy Priest Lake with his friends when he disappeared into the murky waters.

“I can’t believe it. It’s unreal. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how to deal with it right now” said father Calvin Johnson, who at the funeral was dressed in red and black, the favorite colors he shared with his two now deceased children. “(Ke’Von) had a friend that tried to save him, but in order to save himself, because my son was out too far, my son caught a cramp in his leg and was panicking. He panicked so much that he almost drugged his friend down with him, but his friend got to where he could break away and turn around. He had gone under, and he didn’t see him anymore,”

Johnson explains on the GoFundMe page–created to help pay funeral expenses for Ka’Von and now headstones for both–that he was at work that Thursday evening when he got the call, learning his son had drowned and that body recovery efforts were underway.

GoFundMe

After a day and a half of searching for Ke’Von, on May 27, Nashville Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Tweeted, “We are grateful to have successfully recovered the missing swimmer to be able to return him home to his family. Thank you to all the agencies involved; every effort was significant.”

A friend of Ke’Von responded by saying, “Thank you so much for finding my friend Kevon.” She continued, “I hate this lake.”

Clarifying the difference between a rescue and recovery, the EOC followed with another Tweet: “A rescue can be carried out when people are obviously alive or are considered able to survive. A recovery is made when people are known to be deceased or not able to survive.”

Johnson buried his second child on June 6.

“It was the worst pain I could ever feel, like a nightmare. I broke down harder than I ever broke down in my whole entire life, and then after going through the process, still grieving, sending my daughter off, and having to say my goodbyes to her, I had to let her go,” Johnson said. “I tried to stay in touch with my son, and now this. I’m going to miss him dearly.”

On April 19, he had to bury his daughter, 21-year-old Ke’asia Franklin, after a fatal car crash. Reports say that about 4:20 a.m. on April 8, Franklin was driving at a high rate of speed when she lost control of the vehicle, which crossed into opposing traffic and finally stopped when it struck a metal pole.

Ke’asia was less than three weeks from her 22nd birthday.

“I was already dealing with my daughter, losing her life in a fatal car crash, and had to bury her this past April. I was still dealing with that…then I got this call, and you mean to tell me my son, too?” he said.

According to reports, Ke’Von is one of five people who died at Percy Lake this year. Only two days after his body was found, Nashville (EOC) recovered the body of another swimmer in the same area.

Experienced swimmers say that spot in the water is extremely dangerous and that it’s an area they avoid. “…I do know you will drown, and it will literally drag you down–it’s just like a whirlpool,” Chris Kyle, an avid swimmer, said to NewsChannel 5.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) Officer Josh Landrum is urging boaters and swimmers to take safety precautions.

“We can’t say it enough, just wear your lifejacket. It’s the one thing you can do to make sure you go home safely,” he said. “Just like riding in a vehicle, you wear your seatbelt. Whenever you’re in a boat, wear that lifejacket.”

Percy Priest Lake is also the site of the May 2021 plane crash. Actor Joe Lara, known for his role in the TV series Tarzan, and six others were killed when their small aircraft crashed into the water, leaving debris scattered across half a mile of the lake.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to Calvin Johnson and his family. We cannot imagine the pain he must be feeling of losing two children.

As a reminder, be safe when you’re having fun out in the water!

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