Browning will repair or replace the 3 1/2-inch Gold semiatuo lost by sixteen year old Leyton Page when his boat capsized as he saved two young boys from the rushing current of the Pearl River Navigational Canal. Page was able to grab the boys and hold on to them with one hand while keeping a grip on the stern handle of his overturned boat until they were rescued.
Page, of Bogalusa, Louisiana, had been camping, fishing and turkey hunting on the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge with a friend that weekend. He was by himself at the time of the rescue, on his way back to a campsite where he had left some gear. The canal, which is normally tranquil, was swollen with spring rains. Page spotted an overturned boat that had gone over a sill on the canal when its motor died. The boat’s owner, Terry O’Keefe, was dead but his girlfriend Josie Morgan and her three children aged 5,6 and 8 were alive in the current. The children were wearing life vests. Morgan was not.
Page brought his boat close by to help, but water came over the gunwhale and it flipped, too. After fighting his way to the surface Page was able to grab the two boys and hold on to one stern handle. Morgan, holding her daughter, held the other. Eventually Morgan lost her grip and disappeared with her daughter. Page hung on until another boat pulled the three of them from the canal. “I had a total death grip on that handle because I was scared that boat might go back under the sill and I didn’t want to get sucked under again,” Page told Nola.com. Morgan’s daughter was eventually found alive. Morgan remains missing.
“Leyton Page is the reason those kids survived, period,” said St. Tammany Fire District 9 Chief Scott Brewer. “The kids showed up basically naked when they were pulled out. [The current] had just torn their clothes right off.”
Two weeks before, Page had lost his father. His grandfather died in February. He had bought himself the new Gold semiatuo shortly after he lost his father and just in time for turkey season. A game warden later recovered the gun in its case downstream. The action is full of sand.
Local well-wishers raised $1,500 to replace or repair Page’s gun but he refused the money, saying it should go to the children he helped rescue. Chief Brewer then contacted Browning customer service, and the company offered to repair the gun for free or to replace it at no cost if it can’t be repaired.
As for Page, he returned to school Monday and plans to keep right on hunting and fishing around Bogue Chitto refuge. “I reckon if someone else needs my help then I will swing into action again,” he said.