Father, son sink time into retrieving iPhone

Steve, left, and Max Siefried, with the phone they recently retrieved from the bottom of Budd Lake in Fairmont.

The 21st century has been filled with technological advances that while helpful can also be expensive. Cell phones are a prime example of this.

Steve Siefried of Fairmont and his son Max know first-hand about what cell phones cost, as they spent time recently trying to retrieve one from the bottom of Budd Lake, in order to avoid paying for a replacement at retail cost.

Max, 16, went ice fishing on the lake and dropped his phone in the hole. What’s worse is the phone was a new iPhone 7 Plus bought in October with his own money. In order for the insurance on the phone to work, the phone must be presented. But with the iPhone 18 feet down, Steve and Max needed some creative thinking.

“Max called me saying ‘It fell in; it fell in’ and after realizing he meant a phone and not something else, I began to think about how much money was lying at the bottom of the cold lake,” Steve said with a laugh. “I knew we were going to have to figure something out.”

That they did, as Steve began to think of ways to retrieve the phone from the lake.

After a week of pondering, Steve and Max went out into the cold in hopes of finding the phone. Locating the same exact hole from a week prior was another story, as ice and snow had covered it.

“It was minus 20 degrees out and Max was trying to find the exact hole he was at before,” Steve said. “After looking at multiple places in the area he went fishing, Max told me where he thought he was at and we started to re-create the hole.”

With an underwater fishing camera loaned by Mike Fogelson and a 12-foot light stand and reflector stand provided by Steve, a photographer, the duo went “fishing” for the phone. To their surprise, they noticed from the camera screen that the phone was, in fact, directly below the hole.

“After realizing it was possible to get the phone back, I knew we had to try,” Steve said.

Due to weather, wind and a flimsy pole, the guys went home. Knowing they couldn’t afford to wait longer to retrieve the phone for fear of snow or ice blocking the hole and forcing them to guess all over again, the two went out the next day after Max was done with school.

“Knowing we needed something that was at least 18 feet long, I borrowed a paint pole from Whitmore’s Painting & More and attached a fishing net to the end,” Steve said. “We manually drilled two holes into the 10- to 12-inch thick ice and Bryan Boltjes noticed us out there while fishing and helped cut the bridge between the two with his automatic ice auger.

“From there, we put the camera down again and sure enough the phone was still in clear view so we began trying to pick up the phone.”

Steve maneuvered the 18-foot extended pole while Max watched the camera screen, giving directions for which way to move the pole. After some trial and error, the duo tried one more time, with hopes they would not be heading home empty-handed.

“When trying to reach for the phone, it would stir up murk and make the visibility hard, so I dug the net in to the ground the best I could and began to pull up with the little room I had to maneuver the pole,” Steve said. “At first we thought we just brought up the camera, but then we noticed a muddy phone in the net and began screaming with excitement along with those who were there watching with us.”

Back at home, the pair put the phone in the oven on low for 20 minutes and in rice for 72 hours in hopes of being able to retrieve some information on it.

“We knew it probably wasn’t going to work but figured we would try,” Steve said. “It was a miracle we even found the phone, and the case was still in great condition!”

The cost of the replacement without the phone present would have been $1,047. With the phone in hand, replacement totaled out to $31.

“We were shocked and thankful we found the phone,” Steve said with a chuckle. “In three days, I heard of three people who lost their phone in the lake, and I’m sure there are plenty more where that came from. I think I should come up with a contraption that retrieves phones, sunglasses and things like that from the lakes.”

Max is waiting for his new phone to come in, and has quite the story to tell of his adventure with his dad on the lake for years to come.

“I say it may be the best catch of the year, but Max doesn’t like to think so,” Steve said with a laugh. “It was slightly comical and truly fate that we even found it let alone were able to bring it up, and worth every minute spent working on it. Plus Max is pretty thankful that he doesn’t have to pay for another phone at full cost!”