Coral Amayi was enjoying a river tubing trip in Colorado on July 3, 2010, when she hit some rough rapids and was tossed off her inner tube.
When she climbed back on, she realized the cord that attached her camera to her tube was broken. Her Olympus digital camera – and all of her photos on the memory card – were gone.
“I had pictures of my dog and her puppies, pictures of my friend’s first baby, and pictures of my camping trip on there that I hadn’t downloaded yet,” said Amayi, who was living in Durango, Colorado, at the time. “I figured I’d never see them again.”
She also had photos of a friend’s bridal shower and wedding.
Amayi said she was upset over it for several days, but then she decided to put it behind her and bought a new camera.
She’d almost forgotten about the unpleasant episode. Then earlier this month, from her home in Arizona, she saw she was tagged on Facebook by several friends in Colorado.
“They said, ‘Look, somebody found your camera and put your photos on the Durango group (Facebook) page!’” said Amayi, now living in Cochise, Arizona. “I immediately did a happy dance. After all these years? I couldn’t believe it.”
Her camera had been found March 14 by Spencer Greiner of Durango while he was on a fishing trip about a mile downstream from where Amayi had fallen off her tube in the Animas River.
Greiner, 34, said he was cleaning up some trash along the riverbank when he saw the weather-beaten camera poking out of the mud. “With the snow melt going on, there was a lot of trash coming through in the water,” he said. “I thought I’d clean it up a bit.”
Greiner dropped the camera into his fishing pack, thinking he’d toss it later.
“Then curiosity got the best of me once I was home,” he said.
Greiner said he used a screwdriver to pry open the decaying camera and remove the memory card, then he used a card reader to transfer the data to his computer.
“The camera was such a wreck and looked so far beyond reality, I didn’t think I’d be able to see anything,” he said.
He was shocked when 179 photos popped up from June and July 2010. The photos showed a bridal shower, a wedding and a river trip, he said.
“I was so surprised that my computer was able to read the card,” Greiner said. “Some of the photos were a little blurry, but there were some good ones on there. I knew they must have been important to someone.”
Greiner is the father of a 21-month-old son, and he said he kept thinking about how he would feel if he’d lost some of his own important milestone photos.
“In 2016, my wife and I were actually married on the Arkansas River, and her dad rowed her down the river (to me) in a raft,” he said, recalling his river-themed wedding ceremony. “I knew that if the pictures on the camera belonged to me, I would want them back.”
The next day, he decided to post some of the photos on a private Durango garage sale Facebook page, “because I figured that would be the biggest local audience I could find,” he said.
“Did you get married on June 12th 2010 in the Durango area?” Greiner asked in the post. “Did you have an ugly brown stretch station wagon at your bachelorette party? Do you recognize any of these people? If so please contact me. I found a camera in the Animas yesterday while fishing that was lost in July 2010.”
Within an hour of his posting the photos, people contacted him, he said.
“The groom in the photos said, ‘Hey, that’s me and my wife at our wedding,’ ” Greiner said. “He and another person recognized Coral as one of the bridesmaids, and they got hold of her and confirmed it was her camera.”
After Greiner was put in touch with Amayi, he sent her all of her old pictures, he said, adding that he was shocked the mystery was solved so quickly.
For Amayi, 35, it was like finding a treasure trove, she said.
She told Greiner that the ugly brown stretch station wagon was from a limo service they’d hired for her friend’s bridal shower as a gag, and that she’d snapped the baby pics while visiting her best friend’s baby daughter for the first time.
“I’d already downloaded photos from the bachelorette party and the wedding and posted them on Facebook before I lost my camera,” Amayi said.
“It’s probably a good thing that (Spencer) didn’t see the bachelorette party photos,” she added, recalling her 2010 trip to Las Vegas with her friends. “It was a pretty wild time.”
She said she became a little teary when she saw her beloved dog, Zona, who died last fall, in some of the photos.
“What a treat to see her again as a younger dog,” Amayi said. “I was amazed that Spencer took the time to get in touch with me about the photos.”
Amayi said she also has found lost items over the years and tried to track down the owners.
“I once found a phone and returned it to a guy,” she said. “And I tracked down a person to return a hula hoop.”
“I do believe in karma,” Amayi added. “I hope that anybody who hears this story will be inspired to look for the owner of something they have found. A lost earring or a baseball cap might seem insignificant, but you never know. There could be some special meaning behind it.”
Greiner said he plans to mail Amayi’s camera to her, and he hopes one day to meet her so they can take a photo together.
“I’m happy that I was able to ID everyone so quickly and get these memories back to her,” he said. “She had some fun pictures – especially the station wagon.”