When Haans Galassi of Colbert got a call from the Bonner County sheriff this morning, he had a feeling he knew what it was about.
“The sheriff called me and told me he had a strange story to tell me,” said the 31-year-old project manager for a Sandpoint-based software developer.
“He said that a fisherman was out on Priest Lake, and I pretty much knew exactly what he was going to say at that point,” Galassi said.
“I was like: Let me guess, they found my fingers in a fish.”
The lake trout caught Sept. 11 yielded just one of the four fingers he lost seven weeks earlier in a wakeboarding accident on the North Idaho lake.
Galassi actually had joked – prophetically, it turns out – about such an outcome when people asked if the severed fingers could have been reattached to his left hand.
“I’m like, no, I couldn’t find them. They’re gone, you know; they’re fish food at the bottom of the lake,” he said.
Nolan Calvin, who lives in the Rathdrum-Twin Lakes area, was fishing on the west side of Priest Lake when he pulled out a large lake trout. When he began to clean the fish, he found what looked like a human finger inside.
Calvin put the finger on ice and reported it to the sheriff’s office. Detectives discovered there was sufficient ridge detail to obtain a latent fingerprint and were able to match it to a fingerprint card for Galassi. The Idaho State Police Forensic Services Laboratory in Meridian, Idaho, confirmed the identity.
The fish was caught about 8 miles north of where the accident occurred on June 21, the sheriff’s office said.
The finger was in remarkably good condition, Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Gary Johnston said today.
“I was really impressed with that part of it. You fall asleep in your bathtub or hot tub, you come out and your fingers are all puckered up and prune-like. And it wasn’t like that,” Johnston said.
Galassi, an experienced wakeboarder, was on a camping trip at Kalispell Island when he took a turn on the board. He said his hand got caught in a loop created by slack in the line and he couldn’t pull it out before the line tightened.
When he finally broke free, he didn’t feel much pain. But then he checked his hand.
“I pulled my hand out of the water and it had pretty much lopped off all four fingers,” he said. “It was a lot of flesh and bone, not a lot of blood. I told my friends our camping trip is going to be cut short because I ripped my fingers off.”
They pulled him into the boat, wrapped his hand in a towel and sped to Hills Resort. From there paramedics took him by helicopter to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.
“I was just thankful it didn’t pull whole hand off,” Galassi said.
He has been undergoing hand therapy twice a week, getting used to textures and using his injured hand. He still has half of his index and pointer fingers.
“I can still grip things and grab and hold the steering wheel with it,” Galassi said.
The sheriff’s office offered to return the finger to Galassi, but he declined.
“I’m like, uhhh, I’m good,” he said.
Johnston said the agency will keep the digit for a few weeks just in case Galassi changes his mind.
“There’s still three more, too,” he noted. “It’s hard to say where those are going to end up.”