Michael Bennett, a YouTube star and diver, found Erica Bennett's iPhone in the Edisto River 15 months after she lost it
Erica Bennett thought she’d never see her iPhone 6s again after she accidentally dropped it in South Carolina’s Edisto River in June 2018. But in a twist of events, a popular diver has reunited her with the phone — and sentimental text messages from her late father.
“I almost thought I was being Punk’d,” Bennett, of North Charleston, tells PEOPLE, referring to the well-known prank series. “I think I said, ‘No s—!’ The phone survived! I was curious to go back and read the text messages from my dad.”
Michael Bennett, a YouTube star, goes by Nugget Noggin as he hunts for treasure while diving and using a metal detector. (He has no relation to Erica.) In a 13-minute video, Michael found Erica’s phone tucked in a Mpow waterproof case at the bottom of the river — 15 months after she dropped it into the water on June 19, 2018.
“Oh! It’s turning on! Unbelievable,” Michael said in the video after charging the phone. Then he called Erica and broke the news: “One year and a few months under water. That is unreal!”
The two met up on Sunday and Michael was able to give Erica the phone.
Erica was enjoying a day on the river with her family when the phone fell from their raft into the water. She says her husband tried to look for the phone but had no luck finding the device.
“I was devastated. I was like, ‘That thing’s gone,’ ” she tells PEOPLE.
She eventually got a new phone, and upgraded her device again over the summer.
However, she says she was unable to retrieve the information from the previous phone and, thus, had lost the text messages from her father sent before he died of cancer in June 2019.
“It was tough not having the most recent messages because we had talked about doing things because life is short,” she says, adding that she was in shock as she read her father’s words from over a year ago. “I cried a little. It’s just an awesome story to tell. I was able to see all the photos from that day, along with other photos and messages I had lost because I’m terrible at remembering to back up my phone.”
Erica says the phone still works, although the battery drains quickly.
Michael’s YouTube video of the discovery has been viewed more than 13,000 times.
“I just try to find stuff from the past and things that tell a story,” Michael told Good Morning America, noting that he was moved when hearing about Erica’s father. “It’s just a memory of their conversations and all the interactions she had with her father.”
Erica says she never expected the incident to get so much attention. But she has a particular message for everyone who comes across the story: “Back up your phone!”