Local teen’s quick actions save lives

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Most people would probably consider Pine High School student and Bogalusa resident Leyton Page a typical 16-year-old. He has a passion for anything associated with the outdoors.

While his life-saving exploits on the river last weekend showed there is nothing typical about Page, he prefers to deflect attention away from himself.

Page rescued two boys, ages 6 and 8, Saturday from the fast-moving waters of the Pearl River Navigational Canal on the western edge of the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge. The boat flipped when it went over a cement mini-dam, or sill, and the boat’s five passengers — including the boys’ 5-year-old sister — went into the water.

Terry O’Keefe Jr., 41, who operated the boat, was the boyfriend of the boys’ mother, Jonie Morgan. Another boater rescued the sister approximately 35 minutes later after she was trapped under O’Keefe’s boat. O’Keefe’s body was found Saturday. The body of Morgan, 31, was still missing as of press time.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Page was fishing with two other friends. He forgot something and returned to his camp on the bank. That was when he spotted the capsized boat with people in peril.

The rough water near the sill ultimately capsized his boat as well. In the process Page lost his brand new 12-gauge black and gold Special Browning shotgun, his wallet and cellphone. All three items sank to the bottom.

“It was just an all of a sudden thing,” Page said Monday afternoon. “Somebody needed help, so I jumped in and tried to help. My boat turned over so I had no choice but to jump in.”

Page said he wasn’t familiar with the dangers the sill posed

“Out on the river everybody helps everybody,” Page said. “I’ve been on the river my whole life, but I never knew anything about that sill. When I went around it, it sucked my boat down. I used my legs to push off and keep away from it by putting the boat between me and the sill.”

Page managed to bear hug the boys and was able to get a hold on Morgan who was holding her daughter. Unfortunately, the swift current ripped Morgan and her daughter away from Page.

St. Tammany Fire District 9 Chief Scott Brewer said Page is indeed special.

“That is one amazing young man,” Brewer said Monday afternoon. “He is the only reason those kids are alive right now. In all my years I have never seen anybody as humble as he is. The kid is pure heart. He still doesn’t realize what he did.”

Brewer said the Internet community raised approximately $1,500 to help Page replace the shotgun.

“He refused to accept one penny of that money,” Brewer said. “He wants the money to go to the family.”

Page has had some tough times of his own as of late. He returned home from school two weeks ago and discovered his father dead of natural causes. Page also lost his grandfather in February.

“I can’t really put it into words how I feel after their deaths,” Page said. “It’s just been tough.”

Page’s shotgun was eventually found. Brewer said Browning officials told him Monday that if the shotgun can’t be repaired, Remington will provide Page with a new shotgun.