Search and rescue crews have recovered the body of a man who drowned at Millerton Lake.More >>
MILLERTON LAKE, Calif. (KMPH) -
"First day back it's been real cool, nice scenery, the weather's been nice. So I can't really complain. Just ready to get back and get started," Phillip Johnson told KMPH News in an interview last August on the first day of his senior year at Fresno State.
It's that positive attitude that professors like Betsy Hays say made Johnson a teacher's dream.
"Front row everyday, on–time or met me at the door, beautiful manners," Hays, the Associate Professor of Mass Communications and Journalism at Fresno State, said.
The Mass Communications and Journalism major from Southern California was a hit with his peers as well.
"He kind of became the unofficial leader of the broadcast journalism students in the class," Hays said. "He just sort of brought them all together and they all bonded because of his personality."
But Phillip's was a light that burned out too soon.
Emergency responders say he went out to Millerton Lake Sunday to spend the day with friends.
Around 8:30 p.m. he went into the water after a kid's shoe.
It was the last time he was seen alive.
"Just devastated, just deep sadness," Hays said.
After a number of calls for a swimmer in distress, rescue divers spent almost three hours searching for Phillip Sunday night, but had to stop when it got too dark.
They picked back up Monday morning and found Phillip's body around 9 a.m.
"Water inherently is pretty dangerous, no matter if you're a good swimmer or a weak swimmer. So just advise people to watch out for each other," Mark DeLeon, supervising state park ranger, said.
We may never know what went wrong.
For Betsy Hays, it's simply a sad ending.
"Tragedy is the only word you can use. Here you have this kid, he's 27–years–old, he's about to graduate and launch his life," she said. "Yay, we're at the finish line and now it's gone."
And Hays also tells KMPH News, because Phillip was so close to graduating, the university is now looking into awarding him with a posthumous degree.
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