Automotive journalist Davey G. Johnson was found dead on Thursday, followingthroughout parts of Northern California. He was 43 years old.
David Gordon Johnson was initially reported missing on Friday, June 7, and was last heard from on Wednesday, June 5. His motorcycle — a press bike on loan from Honda — was recovered at a rest area near Mokelumne Hill, California. Police later found many of Davey’s belongings near the Mokelumne River, where he had stopped to send a photo to a friend.
The massive recovery efforts, led by the Calaveras County Sheriff, continued until Monday, at which point officials announced they would be scaling back the search. The police found Davey’s body in the Mokelumne River on Thursday. The cause of his death is said to be accidental drowning.
“He is so full of life and I’ve just never met anyone like him,” Jaclyn Trop, automotive journalist and Davey’s girlfriend, said in an interview with CBS This Morning earlier this month. “There are just so many questions.”
I first met Davey Johnson when he wrote for Jalopnik, arguably during the site’s heyday. He was funny and irreverent and we found an immediate rapport. We liked the same music, we liked the same cars. We would bum each other’s cigarettes outside auto shows and debate whether Bivouac or 24 Hour Revenge Therapy was Jawbreaker’s best album. In the 13 years I knew him, Davey never once called me by my first name, greeting me with the same nod and “Mr. Ewing” every time.
After establishing his name — and voice — at Jalopnik, Davey wrote for Autoweek and Car and Driver, where he published some of the best stories I’ve ever read. I always wanted to hire him someday.
Most recently, Davey and I talked about him falling in love with Jaclyn, and how he’d never been happier. He made her a mix tape (yes, on cassette and everything) and sent me the playlist. He told me he never felt so overwhelmingly in love with someone.
“He was going to propose with a ring in Sloane Square today or tomorrow,” Jaclyn told me via text message on Wednesday.
“This is so wrong. A dreamer, wanderer, punk and poet like Davey isn’t supposed to go out like this,” writes executive editor Chris Paukert. “Guys like Davey are supposed to shoot through astride a set of well-worn wheels set aflame, pulsing three-chord soundtracks at their back. Not cold and alone in a river.”
“Conversations with Davey were like a frenetic game of ping pong, with obscure references from art and music and cars coming at you so fast that it was best to just go with it or be left behind,” writes reviews editor Emme Hall. “I wish I’d had the opportunity to know him better.”
“I owe so much to Davey,” says news and features editor Kyle Hyatt. “He’s the reason I get to write about cars and motorcycles for a living. Davey casts an impossible shadow and while I’ll never be half the writer he was, I will spend the rest of my life trying to live up to the kind of man he was: Kind, generous, open, weird, funny, fearless and free. We all should.”