MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Imagine the despair of the Riling family from Cooper City. They thought they had lost hundreds of precious family memories through a moment of forgetfulness while on vacation in Washington, D.C. last week.
Instead, one man’s determination made sure that didn’t happen.
Last Friday, Bob Riling said he left the family’s expensive camera on a Metro train as he, his wife and two kids departed the train.
“I thought I lost the camera,” Riling told CBS 4 News. “I lost my appetite at dinner. I didn’t want to eat. I was very upset. I didn’t care about the camera. I just wanted the chip back with all the photos.”
Riling said the photos date back more than two years, and while most of them have been saved, the pictures from the summer and the family’s trip to the East Coast have not.
Enter Brian Pandya. The attorney got on the same Metro train that the Riling’s got off about three stops later. He saw the camera, assumed that it was left behind by a tourist and decided to try and return it.
“In the summertime in Washington, D.C., we get a lot of tourists in,” Pandya said. “I think anybody if they were on a vacation and they lost a camera, it would be a black mark on a vacation.”
Pandya said he enlisted the help of his friend Chris Gaskill to create a social media effort to find the family. They tweeted a picture of the family, a sort of virtual message in a bottle, hoping it would attract attention. They also put some pictures on Facebook.
But Pandya says one of his co-workers looked at the photos on the camera and discovered that photos from a birthday party at a gymnastics complex had a date stamp on them. They saw the name of the business and the group of do-gooders found a number for Park Avenue Gymnastics and called it.
“We got a phone call from someone in the DC area,” explained Katie Cohen, a manager at Park Avenue Gymnastics. “We did some Scooby-Doo work to figure out who it belonged to.”
On Thursday, the Riling’s learned their camera and photos weren’t lost after all. They were with a stranger who wanted to send them home.
“I’m just glad I was able to help and glad that my friends and co-workers were able to help and pitch in and make sure they got their camera back,” Pandya said.
The Riling’s expressed their gratitude.
“Thank you very much,” Bob Riling said. “It’s so nice to see there’s nice people go to extra length to help other people. I think it’s great.”
Pandya said the camera is in the process of being sent back to the Riling family and that they should have it in a few days.