Sanitation workers in Bridgeton, Mo., defied impossible odds when they miraculously pulled a $400,000 diamond bridal set from an 8-ton pile of rotting garbage. The search took only 22 minutes.
How the 12.5-carat pear-shaped diamond ring and matching wedding band got into the trash makes an interesting story...
Carla and Bernie Squitieri of Clarkson Valley, Mo., had just finished their evening meal and were cleaning up around the kitchen when they got a surprise visit from their granddaughter.
Earlier, Carla had taken off her rings and wrapped them in a paper towel while she was drying the dishes, but when the doorbell rang, she got distracted and temporarily lost track of her very precious keepsakes.
At 7 a.m. the next morning, Bernie noticed the wadded-up paper towels on the counter, scooped them up and tossed them in the trash. Then he grabbed the trash bag and ran out to meet up the sanitation truck, which was heading down his street.
"Don't forget this one," he shouted as he handed the bag to the sanitation worker.
A few hours later, panic started to set in when Carla realized her rings were gone.
"I'm crying, I'm feeling hopeless, I knew something had happened," Carla told TODAY.
The couple put two and two together and realized the rings were probably on their way to the landfill.
They called Meridian Waste Services in Bridgeton and learned that their trash — along with the trash of 900 other customers — was on its way to a radioactive landfill. Had the rings ended up there, they wouldn't be accessible and the chances of a recovery would be zero.
However, a sympathetic operations manager, Joe Evans, agreed to divert the truck to a transfer station in O’Fallon, where the Squitieris and three sanitation company managers — all dressed in Hazmat suits — would make an attempt to find the rings.
Bernie said the sanitation workers warned him that the chances of finding the rings in the 30-foot wide by 100-foot long by 20-foot high pile of garbage were "slim to none."
But, in just 22 minutes, Evans had crushed the odds.
"When I first noticed it, I was like, 'Oh my god I can't believe I found it,'" Evans told TODAY. "I yelled 'Hey, I found it!' Her eyes got real big, with tears of joy and relief. Ten times out of 10, we don't find something like that. It was the best feeling in the world to find that ring and give it back."
"My wife was in shock," Bernie told ABC News. "It was a miracle."
Without considering how gunky they were, Carla quickly returned the rings to the ring finger of her left hand.
"I put [the rings] on dirty. I didn't care," she told TODAY.
While the rings were insured, losing them would have been devastating for the couple that has been married for 26 years.
Said Carla, "I planned on handing [them] down to my one and only daughter — never mind the monetary value, it's the sentimental value."
Images: Bernie Squitieri; Screen captures via fox2now.com/KTVI St. Louis.