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Battered but still working, iPhone returned to Port Coquitlam teen after eight-month ocean journey

A cell phone lost in the Coquitlam River washed up on a Mayne Island beach last Saturday after an eight month journey; now it is being returned to the Port Coquitlam teen who lost the phone in a rafting incident last summer

Hunter Hoffman was mad and worried when he lost his cell phone last July during a scary rafting accident in the Coquitlam River.

Without the phone, the Port Coquitlam teen didn’t know how to contact his mom, Angela, or what his parents would say when they found out that he lost the expensive iPhone 7 Plus in the water while riding the currents in a dingy with his niece and a friend.

“I was more mad that I brought it,” said Hoffman, who is a student at Terry Fox secondary school.

Thankfully, a stranger helped the young people contact their family and his mom was relieved the youngsters were safe after the dingy overturned in some rapids. 

EIGHT MONTH OCEAN JOURNEY

Now, though, in a strange twist showing the power of nature, the phone has turned up on a beach on Mayne Island.

In the eight months since Hunter dropped the phone, the small device has been tumbling through the currents and waves of the Strait of Georgia, washing up on a shoreline more than 50 kilometres away.

And what’s more — the phone still works.

In fact, the durable case used for diving at depths of 40 metres seems to have protected the iPhone, according to Patti Bacchus, who thought the case was just another piece of discarded plastic washing up on the beach near her house when she spotted it in the sand, along with a $20 bill and a faded blue frisbee.

“So much of what I find I wonder, 'where did this come from?’“ said Bacchus, who found the phone last Saturday when cleaning up plastic debris and other garbage washed up on a beach near her home.

Bacchus, who is also a former Vancouver school board chair and writes an education column, took the case home and pried it open with a screwdriver.

Inside, the phone looked good as new, she said, so she plugged it in, and for awhile, it seemed the phone was not responding.

Then, finally, the red battery line appeared, indicating the device was charging.

PHONE WAS UNLOCKED, THE OWNER CONTACTED

“It’s was impressive,” said Bacchus, who admitted surprise at finding the phone still working. “That case stood up and was protective.”

Next, she had to figure out who the phone belonged to and was at first stumped at coming up with the log-in code until her husband, Lee, suggested the simplest code of all: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

She plugged in the numbers and the iPhone 7 Plus opened, enabling her to find the family’s home number.

“That just about knocked me off my chair,” she said, thinking about how the phone unlocked so easily, like it was meant to happen.

Back in Port Coquitlam, Hunter’s mom Angela saw the text from a stranger: “I thought it was a scam,” she said.

But when she saw a photo Bacchus had taken of the phone and case, she realized the impossible: her son’s missing phone had been found, miles away on a beach in the Gulf Islands.

Both women are amazed that the currents took the phone from Port Coquitlam to Mayne Island, and for Bacchus, the journey is a reminder of our human connection, especially during COVID-19, and the importance of protecting our waterways.

Angela Hoffman is also relieved that nothing more serious than a lost cell phone came out of the rafting trip and says it was smart of her son to at least try to protect it with a waterproof case.

“You want the kids to go in the world and you want to be able to get ahold of them,” she said.

The phone isn’t yet back in Hunter’s hands as it takes a few days to make the journey back by boat.

Meanwhile, the advice from Bacchus is to take a bag with you the next time you go to the beach. At the very least, you can pick up some plastic debris, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find something special.

“I hope it encourages people to beachcomb,” she said, “It’s fun.”

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