WEST PALM BEACH – Reba Larney and her friends were retreating to the downtown pier after a day of sailing on July 4th.
It was a scorching, crazy scene, with a jet ski show going on and other Independence Day distractions.
As they approached the dock, the Delray Beach resident said, “I lifted my towel off the boat seat. My phone was resting on my towel. It went straight into the water.”
The phone had a wallet clip that contained his driver’s license, credit cards, insurance cards, and around $ 15, not to mention years of precious photos inside the phone. She desperately wanted to dive after, but was told the water was too cloudy and dangerous.
Tuesday, however, was Larney’s lucky day.
That’s when police conducted a waterfront sweep – an underwater sweep – their annual cleanup event. Under sunny blue skies, more than a dozen divers glided under the calm morning waters off the piers of downtown West Palm Beach, surfacing with old anchors, sections of fencing and more barnacle encrusted trash – and Larney’s phone.
âI’m so excited,â she said, after hearing of her discovery.
Divers spent the morning hoisting this and many more into the hands of volunteers on the docks and on the police boats. Then they re-submerged again and again, followed to the surface by the trails of their bubbles.
âWe do it every year and find a whole bunch of garbage,â Sgt. Craig Davis said, as he put on his wetsuit shortly after 9 a.m. The clean-up was part of the training of the police divers, but at one point they invited other agencies and made it an annual event, he said.
This year, West Palm Police were joined by Palm Beach Fire Department, Atlantic Diving, PDF Instruction, and Code 3 Miscellaneous. The international nonprofit 4Oceans also brought a boat, as did the North Palm Beach Police. Youth from the Explorers Unit at Station 148 of the West Palm Beach Police Department also came in force, to help out on the docks. Help also came from the nonprofit Lagoon Keepers and the West Palm Beach Police Foundation.
Strange and unusual objects recovered over the years past included a tire filled with cement, apparently once used as a makeshift mooring; and a 20 foot long I-beam.
Divers have also stumbled upon a massive anchor from the 1800s or early 1900s, depending on who you are talking to. As with all tales of objects caught in the sea, truth and fiction intermingle, magnified by time and the demands of an interesting story.
But as a heap of debris on the wharf attested this year, after four hours of not-so-bad work, basically the waterfront was cleaner. The pile included liquor bottles, bicycles and chains.
The most valuable bounty was Larney’s phone. She had already replaced the license, credit cards and other stuff but the photos were everything. She is convinced that she will be able to recover those from the SIM card that contains the phone’s data.
Her two daughters’ college graduations are there, as are photos of important work events and family vacations, dating back five years. “There are recent pictures of my mother and I,” she added, “and she is in the hospital, not doing well at all. She has terrible lung disease,” she said. declared.
“I am so grateful.”
Follow Tony Doris on Twitter @TonyDorisPBP