“I knew it was reachable and thought ‘who could get there?’ ” Diaz recalled. He said his son was stressed that night about losing the phone and was trying to prep for a high school entrance exam.
The next day, Diaz said a ping on the phone through the “Find my iPhone” app was showing it was near Reagan National Airport, so he thought the device had “moved with the current.” He called county officials and explained the situation, then was told to meet a crew from the county’s Department of Environmental Services division.
The phone’s tracking device showed it hadn’t moved, and was still in the storm drain outside the Chick-fil-A on Crystal Drive. The crew took off a manhole cover and got to work, digging in mud and wet leaves for the device, as Diaz used an app to make the phone continue to ding so they could hear it.
But it was tough, Diaz said, because the phone kept echoing in the metal and crews “couldn’t tell exactly where it was.”
Lester Moore, one of the crew members who helped in searching for the phone, said they used a “spoon” — a 10-foot pole-like piece of equipment — to scoop and search. One crew member went about six feet into the drain.
After a roughly 1½-hour search, it was found.
When the crew member came out with the phone, Diaz said, it had 1 percent power left — and was moments from going silent.
“I was ecstatic,” Diaz said. In a Facebook post about the incident, Diaz wrote, “Still can’t believe it.” He went on, “Above and beyond. Kudos to Arlington County.”
Peter Golkin, a spokesman for the county’s Environmental Services division, said the agency often gets calls from residents who have dropped rings, jewelry, phones and keys down storm drains.
“Our folks have the skills to get down there and find something,” Golkin said.
Moore, who’s worked for Arlington County for 19 years, said his team gets calls on “a regular basis” to look for lost items in storm drains and it takes a “team effort” to retrieve them. Sometimes, he said, the county gets as many as five calls a week to help find a lost item.
For Diaz and his son, Moore said, “we were glad we could help him out.”
When Diaz picked up his son from school later that day, he told him of how he had called the county for help in finding the phone and then handed him the device.
“Whoa,” said the teenager. “How did this happen?” His dad explained.
Sammy said he was especially relieved to get his phone back because he had pictures on it from the Nationals’ playoff games and he hadn’t backed them up.
While relieved to have the phone back, Diaz said he reminded his son of the life lesson.
Diaz said, “There are bigger, more important problems in the world than a lost phone.”