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Handling death on social media

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 5:32 PM

A mother talks about her son's death and how it was posted on social media before family members were even aware.

Oakwood High School graduate Zachary Johnson was just 19 when he was found unresponsive in January in Oklahoma, where he was attending college. His older sister, Erin, in grad school at Mississippi State, started driving toward Oklahoma, hoping for the best. But while still on the road, an acquaintance called her to express sympathy for the loss of her brother. 

"Erin did not find out about her brother from us and that's pretty tragic, said their mother, Beth Johnson. 

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Johnson said the family was unprepared for how astonishingly fast the bad news would travel via social media. Then grieving mother and daughter saw a few comments on Zach's Facebook page they perceived as inappropriate. When asked to take them down, these "friends" instead blocked Beth and Erin, preventing them from seeing the posts.

"I think what bothered me most was people messaging me, that I wasn't friends with, and asking me questions about what had happened before I even knew what had happened," said Erin. 

Her mother received even more intrusive text messages. One of them she said, was shocking and offensive.

"I even had somebody ask if they could see Zachary. If he was here and if he could see him," Johnson said. 

Mothers who have had to deal with death on social media.

Centerville psychologist Dr. Dennis O'Grady says people in general don't know how to handle grief and social media has only magnified the problem. 

"It requires that a person be really emotionally mature to handle and manage it," O'Grady said.

The digital team at Cox Media Group Ohio posts news stories on the WHIO website which sometimes involve death. Social media expert Rachel Lanka says most people comment respectfully, but the comments can vary depending on the manner of death. 

"Particularly in this area with the opiod epidemic, overdoses, you get a lot of comments that are not so sensitive," said Lanka, who said her team is reluctant to censor remarks. 

However, Lanka said Facebook often polices itself.

"There will be other people who jump in and say things like 'The family could read these comments,' or 'You don't know what was going on in that person's life,'" Lanka said. 

She encourages those grieving to use Facebook to tell friends what they want. That is exactly what Chris McCullough did the night her 19-year old son passed away in March. The Huber Heights mother held back tears as she read her post aloud. 

"Please don't ask me how it happened, or what happened. I just can't tell that story again. My boy is gone and that should be enough," McCullough said.

She asked Duncan's Facebook friends to share their memories of him. She later printed their comments on colorful pages that she taped to the wall at his celebration. Dr. O'Grady supports that. 

"When people are grief-stricken, they need positives coming in and negatives to go out," he said.

Beth Johnson acknowledges that only a handful of people directed negative comments toward her family, but they were still hurtful. She urges those people on social media to hold off posting anything when they first hear of someone's death and avoid asking questions. 

"I definitely think waiting until a family member posts, or at least 24 hours," said Johnson. "It's just not the time. It's just not the time."

Lanka said family members can contact Facebook to have their loved one's page memorialized or deleted altogether. Facebook members also have the option of designating someone to manage their page in the event of their death. 

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Fatal motorcycle crash in Warren Co.

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 3:58 PM
Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 5:05 PM

Motorcycle ax

UPDATE @ 5:05 p.m:

The motorcycle crash that occurred earlier today was fatal, Warren County Coroner’s Office confirmed.

A 40-year-old was believed to be traveling northbound on Riley Street near Van Horne Street. He was possibly racing a vehicle before losing control, hitting a curb, and being thrown from his motorcycle--Sgt. Wolf of Franklin confirmed. He was also believed to be wearing a helmet.

The vehicle he was racing is unknown, and no one else was injured.


Emergency crews are on scene of a reported accident involving a motorcycle and a truck in Franklin.

According to dispatchers, crews are at the scene of North Main Street at North River Street.

The crash reportedly occurred around 3:20 p.m.

We are on the way to the scene to learn more and will update this page as information becomes available.

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Miamisburg opened a time capsule from 1968 to celebrate its bicentennial. Here’s what was inside.

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 11:46 AM

A report card from Sinclair Community College, an annual report for the Huffman bicycle company and a Bible with a bit of history were among the items discovered in a time capsule opened in Miamisburg on Saturday.

“Fifty years ago this time capsule was buried in Veterans Park with memorabilia from 1968,” the emcee announced to the crowd gathered at the beginning of the city’s weeklong bicentennial celebration.

RELATED: Miamisburg bicentennial: 100-plus hours of entertainment, music in 8 days

The white container, with “Miamisburg Area Sesquicentennial 1818 - 1968” on the side, was unsealed and broadcast live on the city’s Facebook page.

Many who watched the ceremony remembered the stores, barber shops and other establishments represented in the container that have long closed, such Mobley Cafe, Arcade Cafe and the Riviera Lounge.

RELATED: This weeklong party is one of the biggest in Miamisburg’s 200 years

A letter to the mayor at the time from then-President Lyndon B. Johnson was included in the container.

An annual report for the Huffman Manufacturing Company states the company made more than $42 million in sales in 1967, netting $1.5 million.

Old newspapers provided a somber reminder of the Vietnam War. At the top of a Miamisburg News broadsheet was a report on the death of Cpl. William Ebright, who was killed in action.

A man told the crowd about the Bible that was pulled out of the time capsule. He said he was there when his mother placed the Bible in the container.

The Bible had been given to Mark Dennis before he was deployed to Vietnam, the man said.Dennis was also killed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter he was riding in, and though his remains were never found the Bible was returned to the family, the man said.

READ THE EMOTIONAL STORY OF MARK DENNIS: Miamisburg man's death in Vietnam, questioned for decades, now has closure

More activities are planned today through next Sunday as the city celebrates its 200th birthday.

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One person taken to hospital after apartment fire in Dayton

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 2:18 PM

One person was taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation and one was treated at the scene of an apartment fire in Dayton Sunday.

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Crews were called to the first floor apartment fire in the 1600 block of Bancroft Street around 11:30 a.m.

No one was in the apartment where the fire started but the flames did run up to the outside of the second floor apartment, according to Dayton fire official Brad Baldwin.

Everyone evacuated the building with help from neighbors.

Two of the four apartments in the building are uninhabitable at this time because of damages, according to Baldwin.

The cause of the fire was not yet determined.

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Family displaced after house explosion in Miami Co.

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 9:40 AM
Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 2:40 PM

Gas leak house explosion in West Milton

UPDATE @ 2:40 p.m.:

A propane gas leak caused an explosion in the basement of a home in West Milton Sunday morning.

Larry Jinkins said he was asleep when the explosion happened in his home this morning.

Jinkins, his wife, five kids, and three dogs were in the home during the time of the explosion. 

He said the fire department told him they were very lucky they were not hurt. 

Jinkins rented the house that is now inhabitable and said they had a temporary line due to a former gas leak that needed to be put underground.

UPDATE @ 10:47 a.m.:

The family of five that were at the house during the time of an explosion were displaced and are being aided by the Northern Miami Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.


An explosion occurred at or near a house in West Milton Sunday morning.

The explosion was reported around 8:20 a.m. in the 4000 block of Iddings Road.

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It’s not yet known what caused the explosion or the extent of damages, but DP&L was called to the scene, according to Deputy Adams of Miami County Sheriff’s Office.

Two adults and three children were at the home but not injured, said Adams.

West Milton Fire Department is on scene.

We are working to learn more and will update this story as information becomes available. 

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