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Tripp Johnson, 7-year-old killed in Monday's crash in Bel Air, remembered as 'everybody’s sunshine'

Contact Reporterebutler@theaegis.com

Seven-year-old Tripp Johnson was the Secret Kindness Agent last week at his school, William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon.

Each week a mystery person is chosen by the school counselor to be the secret agent, someone who plants nice notes or leaves small gifts for students and staff.

“He loved it,” said Principal Tammy Bosley, who became emotional talking about the 7-year-old Tuesday.

Tripp died Monday in a car crash around 7 a.m. on southbound Route 24 in Bel Air that involved 12 vehicles, including a ShopRite tractor-trailer that, for unknown reasons, failed to stop for traffic backed up from Ring Factory Road, according to Maryland State Police.

State police spokesman Ron Snyder said a preliminary investigation showed “there is no indication impairment played a factor in the crash.” He could not provide a time frame for when the accident investigation would be complete.

The tractor-trailer was being driven south on Route 24 by Carloo Watson, 49, of Brunswick, N.J., according to state police. Watson was not inured.

“The crash team and commercial vehicle enforcement division are assisting in the investigation,” Snyder said Tuesday. “Once it is complete, it will be turned over to the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office to determine if charges will be applicable in this case.”

The tractor-trailer caught fire, as did two vehicles pinned underneath it, state police said. Andrew Klein, 65, of Forest Hill, president of Klein’s Family Markets, was a passenger in one of the vehicles pinned and died at the scene, Snyder said.

Tripp was in a vehicle farther back from the tractor-trailer. He was in a car with his mom, Megan Fulleylove, 30, who police said was from Joppa but who family said had recently moved to Hickory.

Fulleylove was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where she was listed in serious condition Tuesday. Two others were injured as well.

Tripp was a happy kid, said his great-uncle, Craig Falanga.

“He was a good kid,” Falanga said. “But if I had to pick one word, it’s happy. He had the biggest smile you ever saw. … He was the sweetest, happiest, fun-loving little boy.”

Falanga’s great-nephew, Travis Johnson, is Tripp’s father. Johnson shares custody of Tripp with Fulleylove, who was bringing Tripp to Johnson’s house so Tripp’s grandmother could take him to school, Falanga said.

Tripp’s grandmother, Debbie Johnson, is a paraeducator at William Paca, and she brought Tripp to school with her most days, Falanga’s wife Cheryl said.

“So everybody just knew and loved him there,” Cheryl Falanga said.

Even though Tripp’s parents aren’t together, they made their parenting work, she said. “Travis spent as much time with him as humanly possible.”

Their family is a close one, Craig Falanga said. Tripp’s principal knows how close the family is.

At last year’s assembly to honor students who completed the Patriot Program, Tripp had the most fans in the audience.

“He comes from a very large family, a very involved family, a very loving family,” Bosley said. “Tripp was always smiling, and he was a friend to all. People were just drawn to him.”

He was a model student in the classroom; he always participated and worked well with other students, she said.

“He always did,” Bosley said. “He had a lot of friends and every staff member in the building knew Tripp.”

The flag at William Paca flew at half-staff Tuesday. Students in pre-K through second grade were drawing their fondest memories of their friend, while students in third, fourth and fifth grades were talking about him, and how to deal with loss and how to best remember loved ones, Bosley said.

The family has seen an outpouring of support this week, which Cheryl Falanga said has been very humbling.

A GoFundMe page created for the family has raised nearly $34,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Tripp was everybody’s sunshine, he was just a little gem,” she said.

The tight-knit family also included “family who was like family,” and every year at Halloween they go camping together, about 20 to 30 people, and they have a theme they dress up to.

This year’s was “The Greatest Showman.” Tripp was the dog boy and his dad, Travis, was the two-headed man.

“It won’t be the same,” Cheryl Falanga said through tears.

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