SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Two years after a Sandy Springs man drowned at a Tennessee waterfall, his family received an unexpected surprise that could help bring them some closure.
Richard Ragland died in 2017, just a few days shy of his 23rd birthday.
"He was an amazing young man," his mother, Robin McCrear, told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik. "Full of love, full of energy. He never met a stranger."
McCrear and her husband, Gary, said they always had questions about what happened in the moments before their son drowned and they hoped to answer them by seeing videos he’d taken with his GoPro camera.
“We miss him dearly with all of our hearts,” she said.
Not long after Richard’s death, Robin says they received a letter from park rangers with an envelope that was supposed to contain a thumb drive with some video of him taken by someone else, but she said they were crushed when they opened the letter and saw that someone had stolen the drive.
Then last week, they got an unexpected phone call from a YouTube vlogger named Rich Aloha.
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“He actually found Richard’s GoPro camera,” she said.
Aloha told Petchenik he’s a treasure hunter and was diving in the waters where Ragland had drowned.
“I strongly believe that God led me to this GoPro because the only thing I saw was the end tip of the thumb screw and everything else was just covered in muck,” he said.
Aloha told Petchenik park rangers had told him about Ragland’s death, so he thought it might be his.
Amazingly, Aloha said the SD card was still inside the camera and working.
“I was going through the footage and I said, ‘Oh my God, this is the guy,’” he said.
Aloha said he began to research how he could find Ragland’s parents. After several Google searches, he found a phone number and called. Last week, he returned the card to them.
“I’m glad I found it, personally, because I try to do the right thing and get the item back to the rightful owner,” he said.
The McCrears say the footage shows their son enjoying his life on that fateful trip.
“What we’ve seen so far is Rich being Rich, living life to the fullest,” said Robin.
The McCrears told Petchenik they’ll one day try to watch the last footage on the camera before the drowning so it can hopefully provide them with some answers. But for now, they’re just thankful for Aloha.
“For him to go through his efforts to do his research, make numerous phone calls, he didn’t give up until he got in touch with us and that means the world to us,” Robin said.