Co-workers, travelers reunite pilot with camera lost for a year

A photo of Rick Russek wearing his name badge on a camera card allowed a fellow employee to identify him almost a year after his camera was dropped in Resurrection Bay.

A photo of Rick Russek wearing his name badge on a camera card allowed a fellow employee to identify him almost a year after his camera was dropped in Resurrection Bay.

When Los Angeles-based Alaska Airlines First Officer Rick Russek saw his point-and-shoot camera fall into Resurrection Bay one summer, he was certain he’d never see it, or the precious family photos that were on the memory card, again.

But an unlikely series of events combining the forces of nature, the kindness of strangers and co-workers, and simple good luck meant that Russek was eventually reunited with his photos, if not the camera that took them.

Russek, his wife, Kimberly, and their three children were on an Alaska vacation based out of Anchorage. They decided to rent a car and travel to Seward for a glacier and whale-watching cruise.

 Kimberly was videotaping the scenery just a few hundred yards from a glacier. She also held the point-and-shoot camera in her hand.

Russek explained what happened next.

“I saw a great picture opportunity and asked the deckhand to take a family photo for me. She agreed so I reached for the camera in my wife’s hand where she also held the video camera. Unfortunately, the transfer was not successful and the point-and-shoot camera fell into the drink. Gone forever were our photos of the beginning of the trip,” he said.

After the family finished their Alaska vacation, Kimberly bought a new camera and they moved on.

One year later, Russek received an email with the subject line: “Lost camera in Alaska?”

Russek said he was amazed to open the message from Mary Mosher-Armstrong, Anchorage pilot base administrator, and learn that the long-lost camera had been found, and even more shockingly, had been traced back to him.

The camera, which had presumably dropped to the bottom of the bay, had journeyed out with the tide at least a mile or so and then washed up on shore around the peninsula, which forms the southern part of Porcupine Cove in Resurrection Bay. A couple of hikers found the camera and took out the memory card. They inserted it in their laptop and saw there were 79 undamaged photos still on it.

Most of the photos were of Russek and his family, but one showed him in his pilot’s uniform, wearing his name tag, taken on the day they flew to Anchorage for their trip. The hikers, who were Alaska Airlines passengers, recognized the Alaska uniform and enlarged the picture of the pilot and printed it.

This photo of Rick Russek and his family was on a camera was dropped in Resurrection Bay and later washed up onshore. The camera card survived the ordeal with all the photos intact.

This photo of Rick Russek and his family was on a camera was dropped in Resurrection Bay and later washed up onshore. The camera card survived the ordeal with all the photos intact.

Upon arriving at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the good Samaritans handed off the card and picture to a Customer Service Agent Kathy Pomeranz and asked if she could return it to its rightful owner. Unsure what to do with it, Pomeranz gave it to Ramp Service Agent Mike Craig, who passed it to Mosher-Armstrong, who decided to see if she could identify the pilot in the picture.

The name on the tag said Richard. Using a combination of the airline’s email program directory and the ID photos found in the employee-lookup tool, Mosher-Armstrong searched first for pilots named Richard, then those who went by the nickname Dick and finally those going by Rick, until she found a match. She estimates it took less than an hour to solve the mystery.

“I enjoy a good puzzle and this one had a happy solution, making it all the more satisfying,” Mosher-Armstrong said.

Shortly after Russek was identified as the owner, the memory card appeared in his company mail box and he was pleased to find all the previously lost photos on it.

Russek found the sequence of events that reunited him with his camera card surprising enough that he shared the story with many co-workers.

“So, an interesting turn of events revealed not only the good in people but also the surprising quality of the technology, and the mystery of currents and tidal flows,” he wrote. “It all proved that nothing is ever lost … it is just not yet found.”

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