Idaho couple recover drowning victims
July 29, 2012 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Five months ago, she vowed to find him. It wasn’t the RCMP who could help, or even a Canadian. Instead, Ms. Smith turned to Gene and Sandy Ralston, an Idaho couple who zig-zag North America in their 32-foot motor home, helping recover bodies from lakes and rivers when authorities can’t, or won’t. They don't get paid, and in some years rack up nearly 50,000 kilometres. They do it simply because people ask.
posted by emcat8 (25 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I'm happy they were able to bring Kelsey Smith some peace. I can't imagine that's an easy job to do, but good on them.
posted by Sweetmag at 7:54 PM on July 29, 2012

They were on As It Happens, too. (If you can't access that, look for the Thursday show on PRI, starting at 2:20.)

What incredibly lovely, generous people.
posted by maudlin at 8:00 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Ralstons' website.
posted by zamboni at 8:03 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's an interview with them.

They also help with historical cases, like the search for missing WWII WASP pilot Gertrude Tompkins Silver.
posted by zamboni at 8:28 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

They're doing a great service by bringing closure to families.
posted by arcticseal at 8:50 PM on July 29, 2012

Wow. I'm blown away that anyone would choose to dedicate their time to doing something so difficult, heartbreaking and unpleasant.

It's an amazing kindness to the families.
posted by 26.2 at 9:22 PM on July 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Very cool.

Doesn't seem heartbreaking to me. A bit unpleasant actually handling the cadaver I imagine, but overall this is one of the most interesting and potentially satisfying hobbies I've ever heard of.

Good for them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:40 PM on July 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

I guess, but the loved one is dead, and thus, has no idea what's going on.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:59 PM on July 29, 2012

I agree with 26.2 and Tell Me No Lies.
posted by nostrada at 9:59 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow. Good on them! I cannot imagine losing a loved one to tragedy, and then to not be able to bring the body home, wherever or whatever home is for them, is beyond. This couple brings closure for so many. I am not religious, but God Bless them!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:10 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much, maudlin and zamboni, for the links to more info on the Ralstons. I'd read the article this weekend when I was up in Vancouver, and I couldn't stop thinking of it on the drive home to Seattle, and all day today. I'm glad to know there's more about them out there -- you think about all the people who are famous for nothing, and it seems to me that people like this actually deserve a little attention for their kindness and altruism.

I watched both my sister and my mother die in front of me, and even with seeing it, knowing it, I couldn't stop thinking that they were going to come back to life, that it was a mistake, that if they went to the funeral home, they might wake up, somehow, some way. Not being able to see the person you lost, not really, truly knowing what happened and having that closure, just seems unbearable. All the things you could tell yourself... and never knowing they would be true or not.
posted by emcat8 at 11:39 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Ralstons aren't paid for their time or equipment. Mr. Smith's former employer, Tyhee Gold Corp., covered their travel costs.

Decent of the company to kick in too.

Lots of strange and wonderful people in the world.
posted by three blind mice at 2:28 AM on July 30, 2012

The world is a strange place!

In one sense, they're dealing with people's irrationalities. Your husband is in a car that falls into an icy lake and he doesn't make it out. He is gone - where his body is should practically be irrelevant.

But at the same time, is it really unreasonable to get hung up on such a detail - of a life-changing event? Who could criticize someone for that? What would I personally do or feel? I have no idea.

Thank goodness for people like this. I remember the man who recently died who had lived near a famous suicide cliff and would invite potential suicides in for a cup of tea. My hat is off for them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:30 AM on July 30, 2012

This is a remarkable hobby. Good on them.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:37 AM on July 30, 2012

This is the best of the web, and these are the best of our kind. God bless them. I hope some day I can retire with enough financial stability to do such a kind turn to my fellow humans as are they.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:46 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

A lot more people would be selflessly kind if they could afford to be.
posted by JHarris at 5:20 AM on July 30, 2012

I'm kind of surprised law enforcement agencies don't have these guys on speed dial.
posted by valkyryn at 6:03 AM on July 30, 2012

After reading, it almost seems insulting to call it a hobby.*

JHarris, I'd love to believe your sentiment is true, but I'm not yet convinced that it is.

*Not directed at you, rmd1023 - I realize you were only referring to the title of the article, as am I.
posted by pecanpies at 6:20 AM on July 30, 2012

Another article, this one from 2005.
posted by pecanpies at 6:23 AM on July 30, 2012

Your husband is in a car that falls into an icy lake and he doesn't make it out. He is gone - where his body is should practically be irrelevant.

Well, I think in this particular case - two of the occupants escaped, and when they pulled the car out, the body wasn't in it - it seems pretty rational to wonder if he managed to escape, especially since the press loves stories like "Man with amnesia found wandering."
posted by muddgirl at 7:35 AM on July 30, 2012

It's really nice knowing that there's decent people like this out there. I love positive stories like this and really appreciate them when they pop up on MeFi - thx emcat8! (and I'm so sorry about your mom and sister. I can't imagine what you must have dealt with.)
posted by widdershins at 10:30 AM on July 30, 2012

In a "We haven't got the body so he could be alive" sense, you could cling onto a faint hope that he was alive.

In a practical "we're in Northern Canada in December" way, even if he had escaped there's no way he'd manage to get out of there alive without help from someone. Given that there's not that many people there anyway, word would have got around that he'd got out.

It's nice that it brings closure, but I'm afraid that I have to agree with the RCMP decision that public funds shouldn't be used to search a lake for the body of someone that is *certainly* dead.
posted by leo_r at 11:00 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

"...two cadaver dogs, able to smell a body 300 feet underwater..."

posted by chrillsicka at 11:28 AM on July 30, 2012

The word "hero" is thrown around a lot, but these people truly are heroes. Through my own small experience of this, I know it means so much to have a body. Without the body, you just have no peace. It doesn't matter if you have a confession, or you watched a tower fall, or they found the plane, or a million other scenarios; without a body, there's a part of you that just doesn't accept it. Maybe it's denial, or maybe it's misplaced hope, but without a body you just don't know.

When you can finally cremate or bury the body, you suddenly understand the phrase "laid to rest." It isn't the deceased who'd laid to rest; it's your own merciless wondering.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:18 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

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