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'Miracle' phone with images of deceased brother reappears one year later

Jesse Miezlaiskis died in an ATV collision shortly after the last family photo with his sister and parents was taken and then lost when his sister's phone was swept into the Chippewa River
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Tony, Shelley, Jordan and Jesse Miezlaiskis seen in the last family photo taken together at Chippewa Falls before the phone that took it was swept down the river. Jesse died in an ATV collision shortly afterward and the photo was feared to be lost forever. Photo by Scott Kjelson

A family that experienced a disastrous loss last summer is counting its blessings after a phone containing the last photo of brother and son Jesse Miezlaiskis was recovered by a stranger, one full year after it was lost.

In July of 2020, Jordan Miezlaiskis and her husband Scott Kjelson travelled from their North Carolina home to Goulais River for a month to celebrate the birthday of her brother Jesse.

On one of the days the siblings, their parents and Scott went up to Chippewa Falls.

“We were having a good day fishing and everything was fine and I put my phone down on one of the rocks and of course it took a tumble and slid down and we all watched it go into the water,” said Jordan. “Obviously that water can be deep and is extremely fast.”

Scott said it was like the whole world went slow motion watching the phone fall into the fast-moving water.

“We all went for it,” said Scott. “We could see it when the sun hit it perfectly and then all of a sudden it started raining.”

They came back later with a magnet and made attempts to recover the phone, but eventually had to give up on the effort because of the depth of the water in the area it fell into mixed with its cold temperature.

“We tried for hours to get that thing out of the water and we had some good laughs doing it because we ended up falling in and trying to get it out. We called it quits and cut our losses,” said Jordan.

Jordan said in the moment her brother tried to help her keep everything in perspective.

“When I lost the phone he was like, ‘don’t worry about it.’ He was always like that and made you feel better when something was bad at the time but in retrospect wasn’t a big deal at all,” she said.

Little did any of them know that phone contained the last photo of the family together. Soon after Jordan and Scott returned to North Carolina, Jesse was killed in a tragic ATV collision.

In July 2021, a full year after losing the phone and almost a year since losing her brother, Jordan and Scott made another trip to Jordan’s Goulais River home.

“We went back to his home to celebrate his birthday like we did last year and that day I got a message on Facebook from this complete stranger who had said he and his brother were diving at the falls and they found my phone,” said Jordan. “He thought I had just lost it because it was in pristine condition — it didn’t look waterlogged or anything.”

SooToday reached out to the man through Facebook but did not hear back by the time this article was published. We will add his name and comments to the story with his consent.

Jordan said the man offered to return the phone that she never expected to see ever again in her life.

“He was nice enough to drive all the way out to my brother’s house almost to the day we lost it. I was emotional because leading up to that phone being recovered I was sad because I had lost all of those photos from that trip and our last family photo was on that phone,” said Jordan.

“I grabbed a charger and thought there was no way it was going to turn on but I plugged it in and it was like nothing ever happened to it. It came on, all the photos were on it and I got every single photo back,” she said. “To be honest, I started crying. We could not believe it turned on.”

Jordan went immediately into the Photos app to see if those final family photos were recoverable.

“They just popped up like nothing,” said Jordan. “It was wild. The phone had been underwater for a year in 12 feet of water and it was as if nothing happened.”

Scott said the man returning the phone is representative of Goulais River and the people who live in the area.

“I am from Miami, Florida,” said Scott. “I guarantee if someone in Miami found a phone they would keep it. It’s just crazy how somebody’s values were able to bring back.”

“A lot of people would just take it and be like, ‘I just found an iPhone’ but he is truly such a nice human being,” Jordan added. “We are lucky it was somebody like him that found it.”

The timing of the recovery is wild, said Jordan, because it was so close to Jesse’s birthday and happened while they were back in the area.

“We were like, what are the odds? It make you question things and wonder. The timing of it all — a couple of days before his birthday — and that happened.”