WAIKIKI, Hawaii (KHON2) — A woman thought she lost her phone for good after visiting the islands in 2020.

She figured that was the end and returned home to Philadelphia — only to find out her story had just begun.

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“And so, my customer called and he goes, ‘Hey, are you okay? Some guy just answered your phone,'” Kate said. She had dropped her phone in the waters off Waikiki while on a boating trip. “And I said, ‘What?’ Sure enough I called, and Karl answers!”

Enter Dr. Karl Brookins, a fisheries scientist and underwater photographer who spends his weekends hanging his pictures at Art on the Zoo Fence on Monserrat Avenue. He is also an avid snorkeler and happened to come across two objects after Kate left close to where he snapped a photo of an octopus.

“There’s a pair of sunglasses and a phone on the bottom, and I’m used to seeing sunglasses on the bottom but usually they’ve been down there for about six months, but this was brand new and I said, ‘Well, I probably had to pick that up.'”

Dr. Karl Brookins, fisheries scientist & photographer

Brookins put the phone in a bag of rice, and sure enough, it came back to life. After hearing from Kate, he took the initiative and mailed it back to her — all the way in Pennsylvania with a $23 shipping cost.

Kate could not let the gesture go unappreciated.
She came back to Hawaii to say mahalo — two years and a pandemic later.

Kate said it was important that Brookins felt the aloha spirit for himself.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was like, ‘Do I Venmo him? Do I offer him something?’ And he didn’t want anything,” Kate said. “So it was really important for me just to meet him in person, because this is a really kind guy.”

But Brookins said it was just the right thing to do.

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“It’s just what you do,” he said, “I would want somebody to do if they found my wallet or my phone. That’s the way I was raised.