Matthew Pica had waited six years for that special moment when he would pop the question to the love of his life, Kayla Harrity. He had the perfect girl, the perfect ring and the perfect vacation spot in picturesque Southport, N.C.
Not as perfect was Pica's decision to propose on a restaurant deck above the Atlantic Ocean. You can guess what happened next...
Pica and Harrity were enjoying a beautiful Saturday at Old American Fish, a waterfront restaurant, when the 25-year-old asked his girlfriend to join him for a walk on the deck. Once there, he got down on one knee and opened the ring box. Before he could utter the first words of his proposal, the ring was gone.
"I turned around and he was getting down on one knee," Kayla, 24, told WECT. "As he opened the ring box, the ring fell out. I heard it hit the deck, and then I heard a plop and it went into the ocean. I didn't even get to see it before it dropped."
Pica described what went wrong in a Skype interview with WJZY: "When I opened the box the ring wasn't seated correctly and fell out."
The ring had shaken loose from the slot in the ring box. When Pica opened the box, the ring shot out, took one bounce on the deck and then slipped its way between the decking boards.
Harrity and Pica were stunned. "I covered my face and began to cry because I knew my boyfriend was devastated," Harrity said.
All hope was not lost, however, because the water level under the deck was only thigh-deep at the time.
Pica, Harrity and a team of sympathetic Old American Fish patrons waded into the water — many full clothed — to find the ring.
"They must have felt bad for us and did not want to see our engagement end like this," Harrity said. "They jumped in the water and helped look for the ring."
The treasure hunters learned quickly that finding a ring in the murky water was not going to be easy.
According to WECT, Harrity frantically ran through the local neighborhood trying to collect goggles and underwater flashlights. Within a short time, she had amassed 10 flashlights and five pairs of goggles.
Exactly two hours after the ring had plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean, it was rescued by a volunteer named Kyle Blusher.
Undaunted and still soaked from the search, the couple got to hit the reset button on the original proposal. This time — with the restaurant patrons watching from the deck above — it went off without a hitch.
"Everyone at the bar was cheering," Harrity told the Daily Mail. "All of a sudden, everyone was chanting 'Propose again! Do it again!'"
"It was the best feeling in the world," she continued. "My fiancé, soaking wet, smelling like salty, fishing water, proceeded to get down on one knee and put the beautiful ring on my finger!"
It was important for the couple to acknowledge the bar patrons for their kindness. They bought a round of shots for the men who assisted.
"They were amazing, and we are so grateful to have their help that night," said Harrity.
They mingled at the bar for about an hour and then took a romantic carriage ride around Southport. When they returned to the bar, they were greeted like celebrities.
"When we got back, people were still coming up asking to see the ring," Harrity said. "They said everyone in Southport was talking about it. It was definitely a night to remember!"
The couple's story became a sensation on the internet, as well, with media outlets from around the world picking up the story.
The couple plans to wed in Southport sometime next year.
Photos courtesy of Kayla Harrity. Screen captures via WJZY.