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Baker City teen hailed as a hero
By Chris Collins
Caleb Day was among those in the audience honoring his best buddy, Shaun Lepley, for an act of heroism when the Baker County Commission met this morning.
Day’s ability to make the meeting is credited to Shaun’s lifesaving effort to drag his friend from the bottom of an Arizona pool last month.
As part of the meeting, Sheriff Mitch Southwick presented a lifesaving certificate awarded to Shaun by La Paz County Sheriff Donald Lowery.
In his letter asking Southwick to make the presentation on his behalf, Lowery detailed Shaun’s “heroic act” in rescuing Caleb.
“There is no doubt that Shaun’s quick and decisive actions saved Caleb’s life,” Lowery wrote. “If not for him, their vacation in Arizona would have ended in tragedy.”
The two 14-year-olds have been friends since Caleb’s parents, Ray and Kari Day, moved into the east Baker City neighborhood near the home of Shaun’s parents, Troy and Chris Lepley, more than five years ago.
In August, the Days invited Shaun to join Caleb for a trip to Parker, Ariz., Kari’s hometown, to visit her parents, Alan and Kathy Nelson, and her grandparents, Jim and Judy Renfro.
The Days drove the boys to Nevada, where Kari’s parents picked them up to take them the rest of the way to their home.
The pool incident happened at the Renfros’ home the day before the boys were scheduled to head back to Baker City.
Kari Day said her son remembers only swimming in her grandparents’ pool and then waking up in the hospital — and nothing in between.
From Shaun’s account, the two had been swimming when Caleb failed to surface from the deep end. Shaun at first thought his friend was just teasing him, but when he swam over to investigate, he found Caleb turning blue at the bottom of the pool.
Shaun pulled Caleb, who is considerably taller and heavier, to the surface and then up the stairs of the pool and was able to get his friend partially out of the water where Caleb began to breathe on his own, according to the Arizona sheriff’s report.
The Renfros called 9-1-1 and help arrived a short time later. Kari’s father, a lieutenant with the La Paz County Sheriff’s Department, followed the ambulance to the hospital.
“After examination and tests at the emergency room, Caleb was released to go home with no significant lasting effects from this episode,” Sheriff Lowery wrote in his letter praising the rescue effort.
“We were blessed that our son had no water in his lungs or sinuses,” Kari said.
Since returning home, Caleb has been diagnosed with a mild form of epilepsy. The North Powder freshman is back on the football field this week and has had to make only minor adjustments to his routine, his mother said.
Shaun has started his freshman year at Baker High School, where he prefers playing soccer.
“His dad and I are just so proud of him,” Chris Lepley said of her son. “I think the hand of God was on him that day. He acted fast and courageously.”
Kari Day echoes the praise.
“His quick thinking and reacting instead of overreacting saved Caleb’s life,” she said. “Shaun is a great kid. We liked him before he did this.”