Internet sleuths solve mystery of iPhone in airbag compartment

By Ben Hooper
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April 18 (UPI) -- A California man solved the mystery of an iPhone found in his vehicle's airbag compartment with the help of some Facebook friends and Internet sleuthing.

The saga began April 10 when Alex Tom took to Facebook with a photo of an iPhone he said was discovered by mechanics working on his 2009 Subaru Forester as part of the Takata airbag recall.


Tom charged the dead phone and discovered it was locked, in airplane mode, and thought the date was Jan. 3, 2015.

"Have you (a) ridden in my car and (b) mysteriously lost an iPhone in the last 5 or so years? Got my passenger airbag replaced and they found an white iPhone 4s hiding inside the airbag compartment," Tom wrote.

The only clue he initially had to the phone's owner was the background image, a blurry photo of someone playing a guitar, but on a recommendation from a friend, he plugged the locked phone into a computer and the device was labeled "Sully's iPhone."


The only problem, Tom said, was that he couldn't remember knowing anyone named Sully.

Tom found a third clue to the phone's owner when a friend instructed him on how to check recent notifications, and one came up -- a message from "Bonnie" on dating app Coffee Meets Bagel.

One of Tom's friends, Logan Roberts, took to Missed Connections section on Craigslist in an attempt to make a breakthrough in the mystery.

The post failed to draw the attention of Sully or Bonnie, but it did end up piquing the interest of someone just as helpful -- a Coffee Meets Bagel customer support worker.

The worker was able to connect Roberts with Sully -- the real Sully.

Tom was able to fill in some blanks in the story.

"Sully and I both guided rafting trips for the Sierra Club on the American River during the summer of 2014. His phone was lost in my car during a weekend trip from June 21-22. Because there is no service out there, people often put their phones in airplane mode while we are on the river," Tom wrote.

He tagged Sully to come in and introduce himself to the thread, which had gathered dozens of online spectators in addition to the amateur sleuths.


Sully explained he had put his phone in the glove compartment, but later thought he must have lost it on the rafting trip when he looked for it after returning. The phone somehow ended up falling from the glove compartment to the airbag compartment.

He said the phone was actually his brother's old phone, which he was using while his own underwent repairs.

"Let's just say I did not chip away [at] my reputation as the careless one in the fam bam," he wrote.

He also revealed the answer to the mystery of the person in the blurry background pic: "The background is a picture of Kina Grannis who I saw at the Filmore years ago."

Some of the thread's followers were disappointed to read Sully and Bonnie didn't end up in a whirlwind romance.

"I don't think we met up. It was so long ago. Saying that I never received her reply would be a likely answer....but I don't remember. Either way, I wish her the best and hopefully she wasn't waiting for a reply that never came. Hmmm, this actually sounds like a movie idea," Sully wrote.

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