Local news

Rockford’s unofficial historian killed by falling snow

A Rockford woman found dead under snow that fell from her roof suffocated to death, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

A neighbor called the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office at 9 a.m. Sunday when he went to give candy to 85-year-old Venita Johnson and found Johnson’s front door wide open.

The neighbor first checked the home, then began looking outside. It’s there he found the back of Johnson’s head protruding from a snow bank, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release. The woman’s snow shovel was found next to her body.

“It appeared the snow had cascaded from her rooftop, knocked her down and buried her,” Reagan said. “She was dressed in clothing appropriate for the winter weather and may have been shoveling her walk when the accident occurred.”

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Officer reviewed the death and ruled it accidental, Reagan said.

Johnson had lived in Rockford since childhood and was considered the unofficial historian of the Fairview Cemetery, according to a 2001 Spokesman-Review profile of her. She was one of the founders of the Rockford Cemetery Improvement Association in the 1960s and helped with upkeep daily for more than three decades.

Deaths like Johnson’s prompted Assistant Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer to issue a full response to a call from family of a 9-year-old girl who couldn’t be located after snow fell from the roof of their home in the 1600 block of East Rosewood Avenue.

Emergency crews found the girl conscious and alert under a snow drift and took her to Holy Family Hospital, Schaeffer said.

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