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Jewelry worth $100K lost in trash, recovered at Hall landfill
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Trash brought in by civilians is collected at the Hall County landfill in Gainesville, on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Last Friday, an individual called the landfill saying a friend, who wished to remain anonymous, lost $100,000 worth of jewelry after accidentally throwing it away. Several hours later, the pieces of jewelry were recovered. - photo by David Barnes

Precise information, perfect timing and hours of hard work led to the recovery of jewelry worth $100,000 at the Hall County landfill on Friday, March 9.

Workers found two rings and a bracelet after the owner mistakenly put them in the trash at a compactor site.

A friend of the jewelry owner called Johnnie Vickers, Hall County’s solid waste director, Friday morning, to see if might be possible to find the items. After determining the truck on which the trash bag had been placed and that it wasn’t yet in the area of the landfill where trash is compacted, the search was on.

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Johnnie Vickers, solid waste director for Hall County, gives a tour of the county landfill in Gainesville on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Last Friday, March 9, 2018, an individual called the landfill saying a friend, who wished to remain anonymous, lost $100,000 worth of jewelry after accidentally throwing it away at a compactor site. Several hours later, the pieces of jewelry were recovered. - photo by David Barnes
Vickers said four employees and the friend of the jewelry owner began dumping out trash bags in their hunt for the jewelry.

Three hours later, with three people looking, the jewelry fell on the ground, and hugs were exchanged. County officials reported that the jewelry owner wishes to remain anonymous.

Vickers estimates he gets one or two calls a week about people accidentally throwing away something, like their keys, wallet or purse, in a compactor.

“We try to treat it just like it’s our own. And people make mistakes and accidents happen,” Vickers said. “And we do our best to try to get them their property back if there’s a possibility of getting it back.”

When it comes to timing, Vickers said the jewelry search wasn’t far from being a lost cause.

“Fifteen to 20 minutes later, if they wouldn’t have called me, we would have (already) dumped that truck on the working face over here,” Vickers said of the area of the landfill where each truck dumps its 10 tons of trash for compacting. “And 1,000 people couldn’t have found it. It would have been gone forever.”

The latest find by Vickers’ landfill staff of 20 people brought back memories of a couple years ago at Christmas. A grandfather called to say all of his granddaughter’s Christmas gifts were accidentally thrown away. After a feverish 90-minute search, all of the gifts were recovered.

“This is a big find right here for us, but they’re all rewarding,” Vickers said. “I was just as happy to get this out right here as we (were) to get the little girl her Christmas back.”

Getting a hug and a thank you that Christmas from the girl was a great moment for Vickers. With his staff, it’s not unusual, he said.

“The employees here are so conscientious,” Vickers said. “They go the extra (mile) and do the extra and stay in there until we tell them to come out. And usually they come out with it, if the timing’s right.”

The jewelry owner told county officials, “I just felt sick to my stomach when I realized what had happened. I thought there was no way it would ever be recovered, but it was.”

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A trash compactor compresses trash on the working face of the Hall County Landfill in Gainesville on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. - photo by David Barnes
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