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Diver finds decade-old camera at bottom of lake, reunites hundreds of photos with owner

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 8:18 PM EDT
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NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. (WDBJ) - Pictures a breast cancer survivor thought were lost have been found almost a decade later.

A technical rescue diver with the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad found the old camera in Claytor Lake with hundreds of photos still intact.

Lilly Potts was that diver. She says it was just an old, algae-covered camera sitting a few feet down in Claytor Lake.

“I happen to pass over a camera, and I decided to pick it up and open it up and the SD card was still in it,” said Potts.

Little did she know what was inside were memories a decade old.

“And I had a friend that took it; they got it cleaned up and there were three hundred pictures on it,” said Potts.

After doing a little digging, she made a post on Facebook to see if she could find the owners.

“There was so much sentimental value to all the pictures, like there was a wedding on it, two weddings on it, a baby being born, and I know if I lost those kind of pictures I would want them back,” said Potts.

A former teacher of Potts recognized the details on the post, and the rest is history.

Potts returned all the photos to their owner--- Brenda Dalton.

“It was really out of the blue,” said Dalton. “And I said it was about eight or nine years ago, so my boss’s wife---Carrie is a teacher at Blacksburg High school, and she had a student that is now a diver for the Blacksburg Technical Rescue Squad. She said she found a camera in the lake, and brought it up, and a friend of hers was able to retrieve some pictures of it ---and then there it was,” said Brenda Dalton.

Dalton says it was an emotional reunion as the memories the photos held came back.

“About a decade, you know, because there were older pictures on there, probably 10 years with the pictures, some I hadn’t seen since I dropped the camera.”

Many of the photos are of her grandson, weddings, and family.

“Just filled with so much love and, and then other memories that stirs up other memories, but other memories back up, you know from watching, looking at those pictures and I remember, ‘Oh, how did I feel that day when I was in the hospital when he was being born.’ ‘How did I feel that day when I was walking down the aisle,” said Dalton.

She was shocked to learn the photos lasted so long at the bottom of a lake.

“And they are as clear as the day that I took them. You can’t-- you couldn’t tell that they were underwater for years. There’s nothing wrong with the pictures that she was able to recover; they’re perfect. And there’s over, well over 100 super clear ones,” said Dalton.

Dalton says as soon as she saw them, the memories came flooding back.

“I was just so happy that it just meant the world to her, and that was so touching and moving to be able to do that for somebody,” said Potts.

“You just don’t ever know when that small little saying hello or sending a message or finding a camera, or just trying to reach out to someone can just make such a difference,” said Dalton.

Potts has been diving with her family for many years. She owes her diving experience to her sister, who owns a dive shop in Blacksburg.

Dalton also has plans to share more of the photos with family, including her grandson, who is seen in may of the photos. He is 14 years old now.

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