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Woman loses prosthetic leg in Clackamas River, snorkeler finds it and a friendship begins

"I just saw it bobbing and I'm like, 'No!' I felt more ridiculous than anything. Like, who loses a leg, twice?" Ariel Rigney said.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland woman has her prosthetic leg back after losing it in the Clackamas River.

On Saturday, Ariel Rigney and several friends dropped into the river at McIver State Park to celebrate her 32nd birthday.

"Every year, I like to do a birthday float," Rigney said.

Rigney lost her right leg below the knee in a car crash as a teen, but her prosthetic leg has allowed her to stay active. "I can still swim, hike, bike and run," she said.

Rigney's prosthetic leg didn’t stop her Saturday either. The trouble was the bungee cord that held her prosthetic leg to the raft, which came undone.

"We just hit a big bump and the leg went pfrewwww!" said Jacob Morton, Rigney's friend who tried to save Rigney’s leg. "It became pretty obvious pretty quickly that we didn't have the resources to get the leg."

Rigney felt helpless, resigned to the fact that she had lost the leg.

"I just saw it bobbing and I'm like, 'No!' I felt more ridiculous than anything. Like, who loses a leg, twice?" she said.

At a friend's suggestion, Rigney posted about her lost leg on Facebook.

The next day, Eric Gantner of Tigard went snorkeling in the Clackamas River near McIver State Park. At the time, he hadn't heard about Rigney's lost prosthetic leg.

"You find all kinds of stuff down there," Gantner said. "It's crazy."

He first saw a rainbow-colored Keens sandal, then realized it was part of a prosthetic leg.

"When you see that, you're like uh, what? What is that?" Gantner said. "I go, 'So, somebody had a really bad day.'"

When Gantner got home, he checked Facebook for clues.

"I searched, 'Lost leg Clackamas River,' and sure enough this came up," Gantner said. He immediately sent Rigney a message.

"He was like, 'Hey, I was snorkeling the Clackamas, saw your post about the leg. I think I found it?'" Rigney said. "I was like, that’s it!"

On Sunday night, the two met up. Gantner brought Rigney her leg and Rigney bought Gantner a beer.

"It was nice," Rigney said. "I'm really glad he was willing to sit and chat and hang out, as opposed to just, 'Here's the leg, OK, bye."

Gantner would not have had it any other way.

"I was like, 'There's a story behind this. I gotta hear about your day!'"

Sure, finding the prosthetic was cool, but perhaps the finest treasure retrieved from the Clackamas River that day was a new friendship. 

"I just can't get over it," Rigney said. "I feel very charmed."

Editor's note: The same day Gantner found Rigney's prosthetic leg, he also found an iPhone 8 Plus in a dry bag. It worked but was screen locked. Gartner is anxious to find the iPhone's owner. Anyone with information is invited to send their contact information to newsdesk@kgw.com.  

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