Tyler’s Drive for Life aimed at avoiding tragedy for families

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Tyler’s Drive for Life aimed at avoiding tragedy for families

By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau

SLIDELL – Pam Levy is doing the only thing she can to ease the pain of losing a child.
Levy is keeping a promise she made to her son, 16-year-old Tyler Levy, as she sat at his Intensive Care bedside hours before he died on Dec. 21, 2016 from a car accident the afternoon before.
The first annual “Tyler’s Drive for Life” will be held this Saturday, March 11 at John Slidell Park. It will be a fun run and walk to raise money for a teen Driving Safety Awareness program to be held at Northshore High School each year, the school where Tyler was a junior when he lost his life last year.
Additionally, there will be a Tyler Levy Scholarship Fund that is being started.
Pam Levy said that in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Dec. 21—as Tyler was unconscious in the Ochsner Medical Center PICU in New Orleans—she promised her son “he would never be forgotten and we would do something to save others from this kind of tragedy.”
Tyler was one of four teen boys in a car accident on the afternoon of Tuesday, Dec. 20 when the 17-year-old driver of the 2016 Hyundai Accent was reportedly going “in excess of 90 miles per hour,” according to the State Police report.
The four friends had been having fun that afternoon at a home in Rigolets Estates before deciding to go to McDonalds on Old Spanish Trail. After Tyler contacted his mother to ask permission to ride in the car with the others the teens headed towards Slidell on Hwy. 433.
Shortly after leaving the home, the driver reportedly came up behind another car going much closer to the 45 mph speed limit. With another vehicle coming in the other lane, the driver tried to go off the side of the road, but was unable to get back on the highway. He lost control in the gravel and veered into the icy-cold waters of Salt Bayou, with the car ending upside down and all four boys trapped inside.
Three of the teens managed to get out safely, but Tyler could not, even after his friends tried to go under water to get him.
“They said the water was freezing cold and felt like they were being stabbed in the icy water. Finally they couldn’t keep going under to get him,” Levy said.
Firefighters with St. Tammany District #1 were on the scene in only four minutes and managed to get Tyler out of the car, resuscitated him and got him breathing again, but the damage was already done. Apparently inhaling the muddy water proved to be too much for the young man to overcome and he later died in the PICU department after being air-lifted to New Orleans.
As Tyler’s parents, along with many relatives and friends waited and prayed for his recovery at the hospital, Levy said she remembers sitting next to her son all night long, “holding his hand and kissing his head. He opened his eyes one time although I don’t know if he knew I was there or not.” Finally, fearing the worst, she made the promise to do something to remember him.
“I really never thought he was going to die,” she recalls. “I knew he was badly injured and thought he would wake up, and even though he would have a long road to recover, we would do whatever it took to help him get there.”
But after continual x-rays of his lungs showed the damage from the muddy water that was inhaled, and Tyler needing increasing help from the ventilator just to stay alive, she was given the information that let her know he would not make it.
“I told him his death would not be in vain and we would do something to try and help others from this happening,” she said.
Pam and Lyle Levy raised four children through the teenage years—Tyler has a teen brother named Todd–and like most parents, knows enough about young drivers acting recklessly on the highway. Teenage boys have the highest auto insurance premiums of any class of people and it is for a reason.
That is why she thought the class would be a good response to the tragedy. Levy said she has gotten support from Pike’s Driving School in Slidell, where Todd and Tyler both learned to drive, and they are going to help create the Driving Safety Awareness Program that the local schools will host.
“We’re still getting all the details straight, but it will be some kind of assembly with all the kids in school to help them understand they are not invincible,” she explained. “Too many kids drive and don’t think about the responsibility they have for others in the car, as well as themselves.
“They don’t realize that the effects from an accident like the one Tyler was in can be permanent and affect lives so terribly,” she said. “We will use Tyler’s story to get the point across.”
Pam and Lyle Levy had four children together and clearly were doing a lot of things right as parents with 25-year-old Lyle “L.J.” Levy graduating from LSU and now working for Capital One Bank, while 22-year-old Ashley is another LSU graduate who is an accountant.
Todd and Tyler grew up as typical teen brothers who were “inseparable and best friends,” Levy said.
The fraternal twins were born in Slidell and lived here their entire lives and “were never in trouble. Seriously, the boys were such good kids. We never had problems with them.”
Tyler became interested in track and cross country by the junior high years after swimming year-round for the Hurricane Swim Club when he was younger. Involved in sports, Cub Scouts and music during school, Levy said misses his infectious smile the most.
“When I think about Tyler I think about him smiling—always smiling,” she said. “He was such a sweetheart and so responsible. He always woke Todd up for school in the morning and was a kid who could make someone laugh even if they were having a bad day.”
Tyler had plans to be an airplane pilot, his mother said, perhaps due to his love for Star Wars. However, all those plans came to a halt on Dec. 20, the last day of school before the Christmas break when he went off with friends to hang out. Ironically, even though the twins were usually together, on that particular day Todd decided to stay home.
Levy said she was always using the phone to call or text the boys and stay in touch and immediately knew something was wrong that afternoon when she got home from work at 4:30, called Tyler and had the phone go straight to voice mail.
“The kids and I stayed in touch frequently with the phone,” she said. “When I tried to reach him that afternoon and got a voice mail I immediately had a bad feeling. I made two more calls to Tyler, and then to his friends who were in the car and all went to voice mail. I knew something bad had happened.
“Suddenly I heard our front gate squeek, something that happens when it is opened. I thought Tyler was home, but instead I opened the front door and it was the State Police,” she said.
It’s still a mystery why Levy was never contacted by authorities quickly after the accident at 4 p.m. For some reason the authorities on the scene did not find out Tyler’s name, even as he was rushed to the hospital. It took Levy almost an hour-and-a-half to finally get the news and arrive at the hospital to be with her son.
That is the scenario Levy wants to help other families never face. It is the reason she and others have taken the pain from the loss and are doing their best to find something positive in it by creating “Tyler’s Drive for Life.”
“Tyler’s Drive for Life Foundation helps me because it’s something I can do for him and I can help others through Tyler. I promised him he would never be forgotten and this way his name is out there doing good,” she said.
Anyone who would like to donate to the cause, or take part in the walk, can contact Kelly Miller by e-mail at Kelly.miller@stpsb.org, or call Levy at 985-640-4436. Donations should be made out to Northshore High School at this point as work is underway to create the non-profit organization.

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