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Photos on camera found in Animas River returned to bride and groom

Device was lost on a rafting trip after 2010 wedding in Durango
Spencer Greiner found a camera stuck in the mud in the Animas River while fishing on Tuesday. Miraculously, the photos from a wedding in 2010 were still intact. (Courtesy of Spencer Greiner)

Spencer Greiner did not catch any fish when he went out casting flies in the Animas River on Tuesday. But he found an impressive array of river trash, including a camera.

He brought the trash home intending to throw it away. But before doing so, he pried the camera open with a screwdriver, removed the memory card and stuck it in his computer.

Miraculously, photos of a wedding and requisite parties were still intact.

Greiner posted the photos on Facebook and within an hour, James Estelle contact him. The photos were of Estelle and his wife, Holly, from their wedding, which took place June 12, 2010.

“It brought back a lot of good memories,” said Estelle, who is a fifth-generation Durangoan and still lives here. “It was a fun summer. Life was changing really fast at that time. And we were still young, had no kids, we were still living pretty wild.”

Greiner said he was wading in the Animas River south of downtown Durango, near the Durango Mall, when he saw the small point-and-shoot camera sticking out of the water, half-buried in mud. It was so beat up that Greiner had no expectations that anything would be salvageable from the memory card. But he was surprised to find files and files of photos and videos, all time-stamped in June 2010.

“I just tried to piece together what these pictures are from and clearly it was a wedding and a bachelorette party,” he said. “And it looks like some rafting and tubing on the Animas was the last thing that was on there – well, there we go.”

He posted three of the photos to the Durango Online Garage Sale Facebook group, which has more than 24,600 members, with a note that read: “Did you get married on June 12th 2010 in the Durango area? 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.”

Dozens of people started tagging and messaging Estelle.

“The first person who sent it to me, I thought it was like a spam message,” he said.

But it was’t.

“People talk about how toxic social media is, so it’s really cool to see something like this where it does something positive,” Estelle said.

James and Holly Estelle, left and center, were married on June 12, 2010. A camera with photos from their wedding and rehearsal dinner was lost on a rafting trip on the Animas River after the wedding, and found this week by a fly fisherman. (Courtesy of Spencer Greiner)

The camera likely belonged to someone in the bridesmaids party. And although Estelle was hesitant to name them, he said he suspected he might know which friend was likely to imbibe a little too much and lose a camera on the river.

There are many photos from the couple’s wedding and rehearsal dinner, but Estelle is excited to see what the owner of the camera captured (he and Greiner have not yet made the exchange).

“I’m just really thankful and appreciative that (Greiner) went to the trouble of trying to get the data off of it and then try to find the rightful owner, because that definitely took some time and effort and ingenuity on his part,” Estelle said. “I think a lot of people would have just assumed, ‘thing is totally toast,’ and just chucked it.”


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