When Chris Flores and his brother, Bryan, went snorkeling in Minnesota’s Temperance River in August, the pair collected a gold ring, a skateboard and many other lost treasures from the river bottom. It was one special find, however — a GoPro — that sent Flores on a search for the video camera’s owner, and reminded him of how precious family memories can be.
Flores says he had every intention of keeping the GoPro at first, since he thought it would be difficult to find the owner. When he took the device home, however, he plugged it in and discovered a combination of police training films and family videos — both of which changed his thinking completely.
“As I continued watching videos, I began to see the story of a family man who worked with law enforcement, and I felt I needed to at least try and return the GoPro,” Flores told TODAY Parents.
Flores says returning the family video footage was also important to him because he knows firsthand how precious and fleeting moments with family can be. The father-of-three's youngest daughter, Morel, 1, went into cardiac arrest when she was only 4 months old. Flores and his wife, Rachel, found out that their infant daughter had a tumor in the left ventricle of her heart. Morel survived open-heart surgery, and today is healthy.
“I was home alone with her when she went into cardiac arrest, and I had to perform CPR on her for about ten minutes until the EMT’s arrived,” said Flores. “This has been the most difficult experience my family and I have endured, but I am fully convinced the hand of God was on this whole situation.”
In order to track down the GoPro owner, Flores zoomed in on one of the police videos he found on the camera, learning that the owner was a part of the Chisago County SWAT team. After leaving a voicemail for the SWAT team leader, he received a return call from Kyle Puelston.
Puelston had lost the GoPro, a gift from his wife, Johanna, on a family vacation to Lake Superior in August 2014 — exactly one year earlier.
Puelston says for the last 15 years, his parents have rented a vacation home in the area. Over the years, the event has grown with his family as he and his siblings have married and had children of their own.
“It’s a big week — it’s a tradition in our family, and one of the things we do in that week is go to the Temperance River,” said Puelston, who lives in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
On this day at the Temperance River, Puelston and his family were cliff jumping, taking video of each jumper as they descended into the river below. As he and his sister jumped together, Puelston was wearing the GoPro on his head with a strap. He remembers letting go of the camera’s head strap to avoid crashing into his sister mid jump.
“It came off and it fell to the bottom…I thought for sure it had been swept down the river, or went over a waterfall,” said Puelston. “I thought it was gone for good.”
Puelston and his family looked for the GoPro, but eventually gave up; accepting those two days of family vacation videos had been swept away by the river.
The experience was disappointing for Puelston, as he prides himself in creating a vacation video each year and sharing it with his family once their vacation ends.
“The video of that year was missing a whole chunk – two days of us swimming, playing, and having fun together as a family,” said Puelston.
When Flores connected with Puelston to return the GoPro, Puelston had a touching way of thanking him for his efforts.
“I asked him if he had a GoPro and he said he didn’t, so I said, ‘I’d love to have you keep it if you want and mail me the SD card with the footage,” said Puelston.
Since receiving his video card back, Puelston has added what he calls “the lost footage of 2014” to his family’s vacation video. And, he’s made a new friend in Flores.
“Since then, we’ve had conversations on the phone and we’ve gone out to lunch – we both have three kids, and we’re going to get our families together in the next few weeks,” said Puelston.
Flores says he and his family are looking forward to the new friendship.
“It is very exciting,” he said. “And we are encouraged to be similar in a lot of our beliefs and dreams for the future.”