Man discovered alive after 30 years

Monday, August 4th 2008, 8:03 pm
By: News 9

By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- When the 1976 Big Thompson flood destroyed the town of Estes Park in Colorado, the death toll reached 151, and six bodies were never found. After more than 30 years, residents began putting together a memorial with the names of those who died or went missing in the flood.

One of the names was never added to the list of people lost after the missing man was discovered living in Oklahoma.

Darrell Johnson was presumed dead after the flood wiped away much of the land. His family was vacationing in a cabin when the flood hit.

"We didn't enjoy the place we were staying and didn't even want to go to bed at night," Johnson said. "We decided to leave one day early just that morning."

Without notice, the family left their cabin.

By 7 p.m. that night, the storm had unleashed its fury.

"That was the good Lord taking care of us because that night, had we stayed there one night, we'd be swept away from the floods," Johnson said.

After the rain waters had receded, people began looking for Johnson, and he was eventually listed as a missing flood victim.

Estes Park resident Barb Anderson decided to investigate the whereabouts of Johnson.

"I just had this nagging, gnawing feeling that this is not going to be finished until I find him and make sure the man was alive," Anderson said.

She discovered that Johnson was alive and residing in Oklahoma.

"I said, ‘I found you,'" Anderson said. "And of course he still didn't know what was going on."

Johnson said he still isn't clear on the history of the 1976 flood.

"I need to sit down and read some books about it, I guess," Johnson said.

Although he may not know all the details, he considers himself fortunate to be blessed with a ‘bad place' to stay that night.

"That's why I'm alive today," Johnson said. "That was a blessing."

Johnson said he wasn't able to make an appearance at the 32nd Anniversary gathering this year, but he plans to visit the Big Thompson residents for the first time in decades.