Max Werenka, a 13-year-old from British Columbia, noticed something off in his usual lake stomping ground. Thinking quickly, he used his GoPro to capture footage that had the local law enforcement astonished. In fact, it quickly brought the boy face to face with officers who were demanding answers.
When Max Werenka woke up one summer morning in August 2019, he had no idea his world was about to be turned upside down with a simple venture out into the water with a GoPro camera.
Small Town Life
The 13-year-old and his family lived in Revelstoke, British Columbia, a quaint town that came to life every time the warm weather rolled around.
One particular spot was a crowd favorite.
Griffin Lake was one of the most happening spots in town.
It was a gorgeous area with a sprawling beach for people to lounge out and soak up the summer. The Werenka family even ran a business nearby.
Familiar With Area
They rented out cabins to people who wanted to spend a little outdoor time around Griffin Lake and the surrounding nature.
Max often spent his time around the water, as well, driving his boat and fishing for local catch.
One sunny summer morning, Max prepped all his fishing equipment in his boat just off shore and prepared to enjoy the next few hours, Griffin Lake style.
While cruising around the water, he came a across a startling sight.
Object In Lake
There was a massive object lying on the lake bottom he never saw during any of his trips before.
As he got closer, he realized it was something that should not have been there! He sped his boat directly home.
Not To Worry
He'd seen a car, and he told his mother about it, but she wasn't as concerned.
She knew back in 2009 there was a car that crashed into the lake, but the situation was taken care of by police. Still, she wasn't sure.
So she mentioned it to a local Royal Canadian Mounted police officer the next day just in case, and he gave her some startling news.
The car from the 2009 crash was dredged out of the lake! This, of course, had big implications.
It meant the vehicle Max found was from a different accident! Police swarmed the lake, hoping to find out more about the car.
Max joined the officers out at the location, but the sun's glare made it impossible to see it!
Dive and Search
Max, however, refused to let officers turn around and return at a later time.
He had with him a GoPro camera, so he dove into the water and began his descent to the bottom.
Reaching The Bottom
At first, Max was afraid he took them to the wrong location, as he couldn't see the vehicle anywhere.
But, as he got a little deeper it all came into view. Was this the missing piece to a recent crime?
Max showed the police the footage from his GoPro, and just a few hours later, they had scuba divers ready to investigate.
A tow truck was parked at the edge of the water and ropes were attached to the car.
Slowly, the tow truck pulled the car from the bottom of the muddy lake and onto the grassy bank.
Everyone was shocked the vehicle was never found by anyone up until that point.
After a few careful hours, the officers finally pulled the car onto shore.
The metal was eroded, the front was damaged, and in the driver's seat sat the deceased owner of the car.
Decades Without Answers
After a thorough examination of the body, it was determined to be a woman named Janet Farris from Mill Bay, British Columbia.
Incredibly, she went missing 27 years earlier on her way to a wedding.
Police believed, in 1992, her car jumped a guardrail into Griffin Lake while she was on her way to Alberta.
Her family had no idea what happened for nearly three decades.
Praising A Hero
Corporal Thomas Blakney of the Revelstoke Royal Canadian Mounted Police was thrilled with Max's discovery. "That's good detective work on his part," the officer said.
Thanks to the curious teen, Janet Farris' family would get some semblance of closure.
Grateful For Closure
Max’s unexpected answer for the Farris family had grim parallels to a discovery at a popular swimming destination called Foster Falls in Tennessee.
While diving beneath the 60-foot waterfall, a recreational diver spotted an object, took a closer look, and quickly contacted the authorities.
The man behind the initial sighting was making content for his social media channel, combing the bottom of the swimming hole for lost objects.
But instead, underwater explorer Rich Aloha uncovered chilling footage that warranted phoning the police.
Hotspot For Lost Items
Rich chose the location precisely because of its likelihood to yield something valuable.
A part of South Cumberland State Park, the 60-foot waterfalls are a popular destination for swimmers looking to cool off and snap a few pics. And because the pools are so deep, visitors lose things all the time.
Searching For Treasure
"I might be finding a drone, or an iPhone, maybe a GoPro," Rich exclaimed at the beginning of his video.
"And if I’m really lucky, I might even find some cash." With that, he took the plunge into the murky depths.
Rich dove into the water near the fall.
At first, the murky waters seemed to be devoid of any kind of treasure, but then Rich spotted something out of the corner of his eye.
There was a small black-and-gold bracelet lying there among the rocks.
Rich took his new prize and placed it on his wrist before moving forward; there was more treasure to be found.
Next, Rich spotted a ring — maybe a wedding ring? — before diving even further.
After locating a pair of sunglasses and a discarded turtle shell, he saw something much more valuable.
There, lying among the rocks at the bottom of the pool, was a camera.
Excited, Rich snatched up the GoPro and returned to the surface, eager to see if there was any footage on it.
Reviewed The Footage
"We’ll review the footage and see if I can’t get that back to the rightful owners," said Rich, closing out the video.
"But this is definitely one for the books."
As Rich left Foster Falls, he ran into a park ranger who shared some interesting information with him.
It seemed a man named Richard Ragland had drowned there two years earlier. Rich's heart sank.
Was there any connection to the items he found and Richard Ragland's death? When he turned on the camera, he was dumbstruck.
"I was going through the footage and sure enough, I just said 'Oh my god, this is the guy,'" he recalled.
Slowly, Rich uncovered Richard Ragland's backstory. He had grown up in Georgia and later served in the National Guard.
Later, he found his calling as an actor. Fate intervened on a road trip with some friends in 2017.
Trip Gone Wrong
Richard and his friends stopped at Foster Falls for a bit of exploring and when they came across the falls, they had to stop for a swim.
That's when Richard pulled out his camera and started filming.
The situation quickly got worse. Richard was getting pulled beneath the surface and struggling to breathe.
One of his friends tried to pull him up out of the water, but it was too late.
They tried to revive Richard with CPR, but the effort was hopeless.
Paramedics quickly showed up to take him to a nearby hospital, but once he had arrived, they pronounced him dead.
So, when Rich found the video of those final moments, he was heartbroken listening to some of Richard's last words: "You start to not take your life for granted and not allow people to manage your life," Richard said.
"I didn’t want anybody to manage my life."
Contacted The Family
Troubled, Rich made a bold choice: he located Richard's parents to show them what he'd found.
When they got the phone call, it must have brought some small comfort that they might finally have some answers into that unthinkable tragedy.
Out Of Body Experience
"The SD card was intact, all the footage was there. It was like an out of body experience," said Richard's mother.
"What we’ve seen so far is Rich being Rich, living life to the fullest."
Richard's mother was also grateful that Rich had sought them out: "For him to go through the effort 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."
Much Needed Closure
Though it captured a tragedy, the footage of their son brought some closure to Richard's parents.
They weren't sure if they wanted to watch it at first, but they knew revisiting the past was sometimes necessary to heal. The opportunity would've have been possible without Rich Aloha.