Talented divers finding lost items & returning them to owners

WEB EXTRA: Interview with Flint River Lost & Found Team

Have you been out on a local river having a good time and realized that you lost something under the water below?

You probably thought it was gone for good. Now, more and more people are turning to a group of riverkeepers in North Alabama for help. They are reconnecting lost items to their rightful owners.

From the depths of the Flint River and Lake Guntersville, to local waterfalls and beyond, the team is digging up a little of everything out the water, including cell phones, cameras, wallets and sunglasses.

Josh Johnson and Johnny Ruckhaber are two friends who started "Flint River Lost & Found" in an effort to return expensive and sentimental things to people. Their Facebook page has exploded, with thousands of followers. They regularly post their hauls to the page and videos of them linking up with the owners.Their last video has more than 20,000 views.

"We have a box full of phones and they cost a lot of money and we would like to return them to the owners," Johnson said.

Sometimes, they find phones that are still working under the water.

"He picked one up and it started vibrating, turned it around and you could see all of the notifications and a picture of the people of their wallpaper. We found other ones that were one and we could pull some phone numbers from. These people just expect that they're never going to see these again and that they're just out of money but in a few weeks, sometimes less, we're return it back to them," Ruckhaber explained.

Requests for their skills have skyrocketed and they're documenting it all on social media. They're doing their search missions with kayaks and pulling as much trash as they can out of the river in the process.

They're also taking out the trash.

"We get cans, anything in the river that shouldn't be. We pull it out because there's aquatic life and who wants to come to a nasty river," Johnson said.

Those they help are very grateful for their services.

"It's great that you guys are able to go out and have fun and find a bunch of stuff that people lost," a man said in one of their videos.

They try to be on the water on their days off. They've been diving for a while now, and with the popularity of the Facebook page, they're looking to grow their operation even more.

"We'll never take rewards for anything but we just recently started taking donations for the purpose of getting open water certified. That way we can get scuba tanks and better gear to do what we love to do," Johnson said. "We want the opportunity to help more people."
"We're starting to get so much stuff now, gear wise, that our kayaks are getting heavier. He has a trolling motor for his because of how much stuff we we're carrying," Ruckhaber added.

He also has a page called North Alabama River Getters that's gaining traction.

Their significant others also help on missions. For them, it's a fun hobby but they're also doing their part to preserve Mother Nature.

"It's not about me, it's not him, it's not about the people we help. It's about the river. The river is going to continue to be here and it's how us as a whole can make a little impact on this river for future generations," Johnson said.

They're appreciative of all of the likes and shares they're getting on Facebook that helps their posts connect with even more people to find more owners.

"Everybody that's liked our pages, or shared our pages and everyone that we've helped, we really appreciate the support that we're getting," Johnson said.

One of their coolest finds was a pair of scuba goggles from the 1970s.

"It was a tool that helps people see underwater which is really cool because that's all we do. It's one of my best finds I've ever had," Johnson revealed.

It's been a rewarding journey for the team.

"It's really cool to get that feeling from someone doing something we love and see people smiling and how excited they are when they get out of their car," Ruckhaber said.

"The treasure is the river, cleaning the river, finding these people lost and returning it to them and there's an emotional payout of speaking with them and seeing their reaction," Johnson added.

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