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LDWF investigating fatal boat wreck on the Pearl River

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries continues its investigation into a fatal boat wreck on the Pearl River in St. Tammany Parish. The incident claimed the life of 41-year-old Terry O' Keefe Jr of Folsum and his 31-year-old girlfriend Jonie Morgan still has not been found. LDWF spokesperson Adam Einck says their 14 foot aluminum vessel capsized on Saturday near lock #3.

"When it got on the other side, the current, the turbulent water, capsized the boat and five people went into the water," Einck said.
Einck says there were three children on the boat, who were because they wore life jackets. He says a 16-year-old came upon the scene and tried to drag two of the children and the mother to safety. 
"He was unable to keep the mother afloat and had her by the shirt, but unfortunately her shirt ripped off with the current and she went under," Einck said.
The youngest person on the boat was a four-year-old girl. Einck says it appears at this time she was stuck under the vessel.
"And she was able to breath underneath there. She was under there for about 30 minutes and then she popped up and officials were able to retrieve her from the water and get her to shore." 

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8th grader wants new dress code in Rapides Parish

Michelle Southern reporting.
An 8th grade student from Buckeye High School in Deville has started an online petition to change the uniform policy in Rapides Parish. Currently they are essentially only allowed to wear navy or khaki bottoms and white collared shirts. 14-year-old Brandon Richardson feels the current dress code is far too restrictive. (photo provided by Richardson)

"Students aren't liking them, they aren't really affordable --- safety and bullying issues still exist," said Richardson.

The change.org petition states that students should not be told what to wear everyday because they are not able to express themselves. 

School leaders assert the current policy exists so that students can be easily identified on field trips.

But Richardson feels if everyone looks alike it could cause problems in crisis situations.

"It's very hard to identify students at a school if they all look the same," says Richardson. "That could potentially be harmful to the students and people that are at the school."

Others who support the dress code that's in place say it puts all students on level playing fields, but Richardson says when it comes to clothing, bullying still exists with uniforms. 

He says they would like to see the policy changed to one more similar to Rapides' current "out of uniform" day rules.

"They would be appropriate length and the clothes would be appropriate," says Richardson. "But you'd also have the freedom to express yourself and how you feel about what you wear."

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Leger's proposal would use oil spill money to fund higher ed

A proposal to be sponsored by New Orleans Representative Walt Leger would use Gulf oil spill money for possible long-term financing for Louisiana colleges.  Leger feels a trust fund should be set up for colleges from recovery money received from the 2010 disaster.

"And that we then use the interest earned off of that trust fund to be a baseline of funding for higher education."

The state is expected to receive billions of dollars from BP to pay for economic damage caused by the spill.  Legislators have already dedicated the first $1 billion of that money.  Leger's proposal would target money above that.  He says his proposal would fund higher education moving forward.

"And while that may not assist us in meeting our obligation to this year's budget, we think that it can be very helpful in future budgets to have this source of funding in place."

The state Board of Regents have thrown their support behind Leger's proposal.  Leger says there is no time table on when the BP issue will be resolved, but is confident that the state will be successful.

"I think we ought to do something smart with the money and make sure that it goes to investing in our future and investing in our students." 

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Tigers lose a wild series to Kentucky

When the polls come out later today, it's likely the LSU Tigers will no longer be ranked number one after a wild series to the Wildcats of Kenutcky. LSU could not hold on to a three-run lead in the eighth and ended up losing to Kentucky 12-10 in 11 innings yesterday. Shortstop Alex Bregman says LSU didn't get a lot of baseball fortune during the three-game series.

"It was a tricky weekend, all around, I think a lot of guys squared it up right at people" Bregram said. "But we didn't play well enough down the stretch to win, give them a lot of credit, they battled back. Not our best baseball weekend."
LSU had a 10-9 lead in the ninth inning, but with two outs, Wildcasts pinch hitter Riley Mahan hit an inside the park home run, when left fielder Jared Foster dove for his liner, missed it and then Bregman slipped and fell while retrieving the baseball.
"You saw one of the more bizarre plays that you'll ever see," Coach Paul Mainieri said.
It's the first weekend series the Tigers have lost this year as they fall to 5-and-4 in SEC play. Mainieri says they had a chance to win all three games,if not for some strange plays. 
"The two games we lost, you think about, we got the game winning hit, the game is over, and it hit our baserunner. And the other one, we are one out from winning, and the guy gets an inside the park home run. What's the odds of seeing those two things happen, especially in one weekend. I don't know if I've seen it in 30 years." 

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Ag and Forestry conducts Emerald Ash Borer trap surveys

The state department of agriculture and forestry is setting out traps to track the invasive asian bug called the Emerald Ash Borer. The beetle was discovered recently in Webster Parish and it kills ash trees. Commissioner Mike Strain says the traps will be placed in high risk areas along the interstate, welcome centers and the Mississippi River Delta.

'If you see these hanging, please don't touch them, please leave them alone," Strain said. "We are trying to delineate the exact area where the Emerald Ash Borer is."
Strain says the beetle, which is difficult to eradicate, is often transported into an area by infested firewood.
"So we say burn it where you buy it," Strain said. "Please don't move firewood more than 10 miles from where you buy it."
Strain says they want to keep this insect from attacking the thousands of Ash trees in the Atchafalaya Basin, the Mississippi River delta and urban areas as well.

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LWC: Private sector adds 26,000 jobs over the last year

The Louisiana Workforce Commission says Louisiana private employers have added 26,000 jobs over the year based on February employment numbers. The commission's executive director Curt Eysink says this type of growth should continue.

"If we look at our forecast which we are developing now, our long term forecast still calls for more growth in the next 10 years, then we had in the past 10 years," Eysink said. 
The unemployment rate for February was 6.7%, but it's the second straight month it has declined. Eysink says the unemployment rate rose during the second half of 2014 as the state saw a large increase in people looking for jobs. 
"So a lot of those people entered the workforce in that rapid growth period are now finding work," Eysink said.
Eysink credits the job growth to a growing chemical industry in Louisiana. 
"We still continue to see really strong growth in southwest Louisiana with those huge projects out there. We're seeing growth along the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans."  

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LSU Alumni Hall of Distinction inductees include LoLo Jones, Patrick Mulhearn, Herb Vincent

Michelle Southern reporting. 
The 2015 LSU Alumni Association Hall of Distinction took place Friday night and among this year's inductees are track Olympian Lolo Jones and SEC Associate Commissioner of Communications Herb Vincent.

Celtic Studios Executive Director Patrick Mulhearn will also be inducted and he says his life continues to revolve around LSU.
"I'm someone who purposely got married outside of football season and sort-of timed having my kids outside of football season," said Mulhearn. "I'm slightly obsessed with LSU."

The Alumni Association says Hall of Distinction inductees are those who have distinguished themselves through their careers, their personal civic accomplishments and their loyalty to their alma mater. 

Mulhearn, who is originally from Mississippi and graduated from LSU grad school in 2000, says LSU is the reason he fell in love with Louisiana.

"They adopted me and I adopted it," said Mulhearn. "I'm not going anywhere and I can't say enough about what the education has done for me."

Vincent has worked as LSU's Sports Information Director and former Associate Athletic Director. He's worked under Tiger football coaches including Mike Archer, Curley Hallman, Gerry DiNardo, Nick Saban and Les miles.

Vincent doesn't have anything bad to say about Saban as it was always important to the now Alabama coach to keep LSU traditions alive.

"Changing the helmet or changing the uniform, he stuck by all that," said Vincent. "I thought of that when I saw CBS named LSU's helmet the best in college football. I think it really is and I remember having that conversation with Saban."

Also being inducted this year is Atlantic Company of America President David Suarez and VP of Research of at the University of Texas John Tinsley Oden. Vincent says he didn't believe it when he got the call.

"To see people like that and to be part of that class is humbling and a real honor."

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Sasol breaks ground near Westlake

Sasol has broken ground on its ethane cracker and derivatives mega project near Westlake.  The South African-based company expects the facility to be in operation in 2018.  Calcasieu Parish Police Jury President Nic Hunter says they are excited that this project is finally underway.

"What we witnessed today was the ground breaking of not only one of the largest single-company investments in the state of Louisiana, but one of the largest industrial investments in the country."

By the time the project is complete, Sasol's investment will total almost $9 billion.  Hunter says the construction of this project will have an sudden impact on the economy in southwest Louisiana.

"It means thousands of construction jobs.  It means thousands of people coming here and spending their dollars here."

The project will create more than 5,000 construction jobs and over 500 full-time positions.  Hunter feels Sasol's commitment to southwest Louisiana puts the area in a great position for future growth.

"Our petro-chemical industry, with the investments from companies like Sasol and others, the amount of jobs, the amount of infrastructure we're bringing here:  keep your eye on southwest Louisiana.  Because we have some really great things coming up." 

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Rayne man wanted for crawfish theft in Acadia Parish

The Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office has issued an arrest warrant for a Rayne man accused of stealing crawfish from a crawfish plant.  Spokeswoman Maxine Trahan says a dock worker called authorities after witnessing the theft.

"This individual, who has been identified as Cary Gordon Bastain, arrived and loaded six crawfish sacks into the back of the white Camaro that he was driving."

She says Bastain fled the scene driving at speeds of over 100 miles-per-hour toward Vermillion and Lafayette parishes.  He faces charges of simple burglary, reckless operation, and aggravated flight from an officer.  Bastian is still at large and Trahan says they're asking for the public's help bringing him in.

"Anyone who may know of his whereabouts, we're asking that you contact the sheriff's office, Wildlife and Fisheries, or even the Vermillion Parish Sheriff's Office so that we can arrest him for the charges that he's being charged." 

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