Boater who helped save drowning girl tells story of rescue

Boater who helped save drowning girl tells story of rescue

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - A boater who jumped into action after a family capsized in a waterway in the Pearl River system is recounting the minutes that followed when he and a friend jumped into action to help.

Terry O'Keefe, 41, drowned during the accident, and the body of Jonie Morgan, 31, is still missing. Morgan's three children were rescued.

A.J. Holmes was with his friend, Josh Miley, when they heard a commotion near a low dam used to control water in the area. Leyton Page, 16, had already pulled Morgan's two young boys from the water, but Morgan's daughter was still missing so Holmes and Miley lifted their small boat out of the water to move it past the dam to start searching.

Holmes was joined by an unknown fisherman while Miley waited on shore.

"I had the smallest boat, so we took my motor off and carried it around the sill and put my motor back on, and the other guy jumped into the boat, we were going up and down river to see if we could find anything," Holmes said.

Holmes nearly gave up when Miley spotted the little girl near the dam.

"A girl pops out the water. I guess she had to be under the boat, because we didn't see her for a good while, it took my breath away that she was alive," Miley said.

Miley shouted to his friend to come back toward the dam, even as some people on shore warned him it was too dangerous.

"A few people told A.J. 'your boat's too small - get away from the sill,' but he kept on going," Miley said.

"We pulled up to the girl, we pulled her in, we went right under the sill actually, the water came in pretty good," Holmes said. "We came really close to going under, like I said, my boat hit the sill and started filling up with water, filled my boat up pretty good, we were teetering, but we managed to make it back."

Holmes said it was the unknown man who managed to grab the girl as water filled the boat and while some may consider him a hero, he won't take the title.

"Leyton Page was the real hero, saved those two boys, and that guy that was in the boat with me. I still don't know his name, but if he's watching I just want to say thank you," Holmes said.

Holmes said he plans to stay away from the water for a few weeks.

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputies and Wildlife and Fisheries agents continue searching for Morgan's body.

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