When will starry-eyed suitors finally learn that engagement rings and fast-moving bodies of water don’t mix?
In Gadsen, Ala., Corey Winters relied on the kindness of the local police dive team to rescue the engagement ring that he dropped through a footbridge while proposing to girlfriend Stephanie Cole near scenic Noccalula Falls.
Everything about the surprise proposal seemed to be perfect. The setting was romantic, the ring was gorgeous and the ruse that convinced Cole to join Winters on the bridge was believable. He told her that he wanted to share the spectacular view the Christmas lights that had just been installed at Noccalula Falls Park.
But when Winters, an Afghanistan veteran and a member of the 3rd Marine Division, went down on bended knee to offer his proposal, all his best intentions started to turn for the worse. First, he attempted to put the ring — a pretty three-stone motif with a 1-carat diamond center and sapphire accents — on the ring finger of Cole’s right hand.
When his girlfriend corrected him that the ring traditionally goes on the left hand, the nervous and wind-chilled boyfriend fumbled the ring. It bounced once and then disappeared through the planks of the footbridge into the rapids below heading downstream toward the waterfall.
"I saw it bounce about three or four slats over and go between two planks," he told WTSP-TV.
"It was cold and dark and we were both nervous," Cole told the Tuscaloosa News. "I never even saw it. I felt so bad for him."
The brave boyfriend rolled up his pants and got into the fast-moving, frigid water but couldn’t locate the ring. After about 30 minutes of searching, he wasn’t up to his knees in water, he had fallen completely in.
Winters continued his search the next day with a group of friends and a metal detector, but still they had no luck.
Finally, the park staff — noticing the unusual activity in the rapids under the bridge only 30 yards from the falls — called the Etowah County Sheriff's Office, which agreed to search for the ring even though it was unusual for the dive team to look for personal items.
Sheriff Todd Entrekin explained why his dive team took on the challenge: "It was a great training opportunity. There's not many times we get to actually be in rapid water there. And two, it was pretty significant to [Winters] and his family. He kept going out there [into the rapids], so we figured in the long run it was safer if we went out and looked for it."
Within an hour the sheriff’s team of three divers had located the ring. Fortunately, the ring had gotten hung up near a pile under the bridge.
Meanwhile, Winters had purchased replacement ring at a local jewelry store. Once the original was retrieved, the store owner agreed to take back the replacement and offer a full refund.
Winters told ABC 33-40 that it's nice having a memorable story to tell, but he looks forward to a time when he and his future bride are the only ones telling it. He doesn't particularly enjoy the attention.
Screen captures: WTSP-TV; Facebook/The Tuscaloosa News