The Taylor Titan community felt a profound sense of grief this fall when it lost 16-year-old Johnathon McKoon in a single-vehicle accident.
Since then, much has been shared about the athletic, friendly boy who was described as a caring teammate and role model, on and off the football field and wrestling mat. Now, Johnathon’s father wants to speak out about his family’s experience since losing his son.
“We struggle all the time,” Chris McKoon, Johnathon’s dad, said. “And it’s not daily. Sometimes it’s minute by minute, hour by hour. We try to function. We finished the football season; we went to all the games, and now wrestling season is starting. The world keeps moving on.”
However, McKoon said it has been difficult for his family to pick up the pieces. Dealing with insurance and watching as the sheriff’s office finished its investigation were difficult, and he thinks there are important facts about the case that have not been shared thoroughly with the community. The main thing he wants everyone to know was that the accident was not Johnathon’s fault.
“All the articles have been so nice, but they all say just ‘single-car accident.’” McKoon said. “They never list the driver, they never really said what happened or what didn’t happen. I’m like, ‘Okay, it wasn’t his fault.’ He didn’t do anything wrong other than take his seat belt off, and I wish he wouldn’t have.”
McKoon said Johnathon and his friends went to Cedar Point for his friends’ birthdays. They took two cars, but they were separated on the return trip. The driver of the car Johnathon was riding in told police he swerved to avoid an object on the road, and the car hit a pole.
Johnathon, who had taken his seat belt off to lie down and sleep in the back seat, was ejected from the vehicle. McKoon said he sometimes wonders if the driver also fell asleep during the trip due to a long day and late drive home.
When McKoon questioned the official account written by the sheriff’s office, he said he was told he would have to file criminal charges to find the answers he wanted.
“Right now I feel like there is no accountability,” McKoon said. “We felt like we were let down by our sheriff’s department.”
McKoon is also frustrated about the lack of visibility concerning the driver of the car. He said he was appreciative for the articles written about Johnathon, but he does not understand why the driver’s name was not published.
“You see accidents all the time and the drivers’ names are in there,” McKoon said. “I don’t want to see a 19-year-old go to prison because it would ruin him, but his name should have at least been in the paper so everybody knew John wasn’t at fault. He was an innocent kid in the back seat, asleep.”
McKoon said working with the sheriff’s office has been another difficulty. He was out of town when the wreck happened, and his wife was the first one to arrive. She asked a sheriff’s deputy to see her son.
“He looked at her and said, ‘He’s dead.’ And they wouldn’t let her down to see him,” McKoon said.
McKoon said two different deputies had different stories about what happened, and one detective did not have any information at all. Later, when McKoon tried to speak to a sergeant, he felt like the sergeant was just waiting for him to leave.
At another point, the McKoons were told the accident report was finished and available for them to read. When McKoon went to pick it up, he said the detective he spoke to was confused because the report was not yet finished and the person in charge of it was on vacation.
“It hurt. It hurt tremendously,” McKoon said.
“You feel like there’s no justice, no accountability for your son’s death.”
McKoon said he would like to see more action from the sheriff’s office, tougher driving laws, and some sort of justice for Johnathon.
“There’s no accountability, there’s nothing. If something happens, they’re not here for you. They weren’t there for John.”
McKoon said he thinks there are changes the sheriff’s office can make that will better help people who have lost a loved one and seek justice for people like his son.
“I don’t want to bash on them,” McKoon said. “I just want to say, ‘Hey, this has not been a fun experience.’”
While McKoon feels hurt by the sheriff’s office’s inattention, he said many people in the community have stepped up to support his family.
“Orville Harness, he’s deputy coroner. He’s an amazing human being. I cannot praise him enough,” McKoon said. “He actually sat down and talked with us and called us multiple times. It was never, ‘Here, let me give you the information.’ It was, ‘Hey, let’s talk. Let’s process and make sure you understand if you have any questions.’ He’s just an amazing individual.”
McKoon said the number of people he would like to thank would not fit in the newspaper. However, the community at Taylor particularly has been overwhelmingly supportive.
“Our little Taylor school has really turned into a massive family that took us in,” McKoon said.
McKoon said his family still gets texts regularly from people checking in on them. Christopher Smith, Taylor’s superintendent, called the family twice, and several of Johnathon’s teachers moved his desk to the side of the room to honor him.
When it came time for Johnathon’s funeral, Taylor High School Principal Steve Dishon recommended holding it at Taylor so there would be enough space for everyone who wanted to attend.
“During the viewing, I looked up and there were probably 45, 50 kids sitting on the bleachers talking to each other,” McKoon said. “That really touched me. There were so many people.”
McKoon said it is still difficult adjusting and grieving. Between birthdays and the upcoming holidays, it is hard for the family to celebrate. However, they are slowly moving forward.
“Once everything settles, we are going to start up a scholarship for him,” McKoon said. “Our four kids are our legacy. John’s life was cut short, but a scholarship could be his legacy to help on down the road.”