(FAIRFAX, Va.) — The loss of a camera is heartbreaking and all-too-common, but the real shame is when the content inside cannot be recovered.
That’s why 30-year-old Thomas Tufts set out to find the owner of a muddy camera he found underwater in a West Virginia lake weeks after it was lost.
Tufts and his girlfriend made their second trip Saturday to Summersville Lake, which is “great” for rock climbing because it adds about 20 feet of cliff when it is drained in the winter every year, he said.
The Fairfax, Virginia, man spotted the camera as he walked across the rocks. “I saw this muddy, black strap,” he told ABC News on Tuesday.
Tufts initially thought the camera would be waterlogged and ruined but, to his surprise, it worked, and a single video was loaded onto the memory card.
The clip starts off with a diver climbing the rock, the camera strapped to his head and tattoos visible on his right bicep and forearm. Two friends are seen wading in the reservoir below while more wait for him at the top of the cliff.
“Say hi,” he says to one friend. “You’re on camera.”
After the taxing climb, the cameraman scopes out his surroundings before jumping off the rock. After the camera hits the water, a screen of green is visible as it plunges to the bottom of the lake, where it recorded an additional 45 minutes of video before it died.
The video must have been taken over the summer, Tufts said, adding that the time stamp says it was shot Sept. 5 at 7:15 p.m.
Tufts and his girlfriend are avid rock climbers and both own GoPros, he said, so he is determined to return the camera to the owner.
“My main motivation is to get the camera back to the guy,” he said, adding that he had hoped there would be more video on the memory card to better identify him.
Tufts started a thread on Reddit to help find the owner. One user commented that he recognized one of the men in the video from a rock climbing gym in Virginia Beach.
“We come all the way from Fairfax, [Virginia] to climb at Summersville,” he said. “So it doesn’t surprise me that someone would come from Virginia Beach to do the same.”
The camera, a Sony HD Steadyshot, is still in “perfect condition,” Tufts said.
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