16 year old helps rescue children from Pearl River

Published: Mar. 30, 2015 at 2:36 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 4:56 PM CDT
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ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Search crews comb the Pearl River in St. Tammany Parish, looking for the body of a 31-year-old woman. Jonie Morgan's boat capsized Saturday evening on the Lock Canal near Bush. The body of her boyfriend was discovered Sunday morning, and her three children were rescued thanks to a quick thinking 16-year-old.

For Janice Dillon, meeting and thanking the teenager she credits with saving her grandson's life, is a must. "He's courageous, not many people would do that, to save the children," Dillon said.

Leyton Page was fishing on the Pearl River when he spotted a capsized flat boat, near an Army Corps of Engineers dam. Morgan, 31, was in the water without a life jacket. Her three kids, all wearing jackets were in the water with her. Her boyfriend, 41-year-old Terry O'Keefe, had already gone under. Struggling to help the family, Page's own boat then flipped. "I used the boat for a buoy and paddled with my left hand and swam over there to them. The two boys climbed on my shoulders," Page explained.

Morgan held her daughter in one arm, and clung to Page's boat with the other. He says in an instant, the rough current pulled her under. "There's like two feet from the waterfall. All I can figure she got too close to that waterfall and it sucked her down," Page said.

Another fisherman came by and pulled the 16-year-old and the three kids from the river. O'Keefe's body was recovered Sunday morning. Search crews spent the day looking for any sign of Morgan.

Wildlife and Fisheries Lt. Jason Russo says, "The ability to search under the water in that area is very difficult."

Family and friends, including Morgan's ex-boyfriend, and father of her six-year-old, are helping to search. "She's a fighter though and that's one thing I know with her, I can't see her going down like that, I really can't," Brennan Estopinal said.

While Estopinal is trying to process how he'll explain this situation to his six-year-old, he's just so grateful to Leyton Page, saying, "That was a godsend really."

That's why he and his mother Janice, consider the teen, a hero. Dillon said to Page, "They're alive, you know that, just because of you, they wouldn't have survived. So thank you, thank you for that."

The family says Morgan's daughter is still being treated at a hospital. Her sons weren't injured. Dive teams are using K-9 dogs and sonar equipment to look for her.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the families impacted by this incident.

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