Many people have accidentally tossed something valuable in the trash, and an Inver Grove Heights woman who lost a suitcase containing sentimental jewelry made a frantic phone call when she realized she did just that.
Todd O'Connor has been hauling trash in the Inver Grove Heights area for a decade, and in that time, the industry has changed a lot.
"It's all automated, so you really don't' have to touch the trash," he explained. "You got nobody watching over you. I like it a lot."
Yet, in all that time, he's never had to sift through the garbage to find someone's misplaced items before.
"It was kind of like, 'Oh no,'" he recalled. "I had a lot of stops already, so it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack."
On Thursday morning, O'Connor got a call from home base at Troje's Trash to tell him a woman called because she accidentally threw away a suitcase with sentimental jewelry inside and she really wanted it back. So, he drove to the unloading area and immediately started dumping out the trash even though it meant getting his hands dirty.
"It gets pretty nasty, especially this time of year," he admitted. "Wasn't making my morning, that's for sure."
With six tons of trash collected at 300 stops, O'Connor used a hockey stick and his hands to search for the orange suitcase the caller had described.
"It was an easy thing to spot," O'Connor said. "She said it was bright orange, so I was able to eliminate all the white stuff and spot the orange suitcase."
It took him between 10 and 15 minutes to find the suitcase -- and the purse with the jewelry stuffed in a pocket as well.
"I was really surprised I was able to find it that quickly because I still had half a truck full," O'Connor told FOX 9 News. "Glad I was able to find it quicker than later."
Had the call been placed a few hours later, it would have been too late to recover the suitcase because the trash would have been put onto the conveyor belt toward the incinerator.
"Good thing she called when she did," O'Connor said. "It was a good deed. I would want someone to do that for me if it happened to me."