River pilot, firefighter mourned after fatal crash

PORTSMOUTH — Killed in a single-car crash Saturday, Peter “PJ” Johnson is remembered as a man who spent his life working on the water and ski slopes, as a firefighter and a father.

Johnson, 50, was a Portsmouth Pilot who worked in tandem with Moran tugboats to help navigate massive ships into the Portsmouth Port, via the Piscataqua River, said Dick Holt of Moran Tugboats. He said Johnson boarded the ships to direct the tugs and worked hard to earn the position. Holt said Johnson was a lobsterman and a fisherman until the industry began shrinking, then went to and graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy and “worked his way in.”

“It took him a long time to get in there,” Holt said. “I worked with him for 10 years and I’ve known him for 20. Anything he did, he was all-in. It certainly is a tragedy.”

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Rich Beauchesne Photo