Posted: Jul 9, 2010 5:02 PM by Sarah Rosario
Updated: Jul 9, 2010 6:15 PM
A man helping with the oil spill clean-up 4th of July weekend found something unlikely in the sand-- a backpack lost at sea.
Jimmy Ernst is a Wildlife and Fisheries private lands biologist. That weekend, he was assigned to oil spill duty.
"We were given a section of a map, and it included Whiskey Island, Raccoon Island and a section of a marsh," said Ernst.
He was teamed up with another biologist with orders to comb the beach. They were out with binoculars, looking for oil, oiled birds and anything else impacted by oil covering the ground. Ernst said they were about to head back to the boat when he found a black nap sack, half buried in the sand. He picked it up and began to look through the compartments.
"In one of the compartments, there was a wallet, a set of keys, what was left of a pack of cigarettes, a bottle opener," said Ernst.
In the wallet, there was nearly $300 cash, credit cards and military ID's. All were property of Army Sergeant Harry Schwarz stationed in Guantanamo bay, Cuba.
"Everybody was wondering, 'Where did this come from? How did it get here, and how long has it been in the water?'" said Ernst.
When he got home, Ernst tried Googling the name and address, only to find his picture online but nothing else. He looked through the wallet and called USAA, Schwarz's bank. Turns out, they both belong to the same one. The biologist said the bank worker looked it up and verified that Schwarz reported the card lost.
"She said, 'Hold up, I'm going to put you on hold and call him,'" said Ernst.
The bank worker passed on his phone number and moments later, Ernst got a call from Sgt. Harry Schwarz, himself.
"He said he lost it in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when he was scuba diving. He said he lost it. He said it blew out of the boat, and he hadn't seen it since," said Ernst.
The backpack fell off the boat in the Caribbean sea. It traveled more than 1,300 miles through the Gulf before landing on Whiskey Island. It was missing for seven months before it was found.
"What are the chances you lose a wallet in Cuba and somebody finds it in Louisiana and sends it back to you?" said Ernst
The wallet, with everything inside, was sent back to the sergeant Wednesday.