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Diver finds lost ring and returns it to owner – nearly 40 years after it was lost



Diver Brian Tovin swam deep into South Carolina’s Cooper River in search of fossils and relics. In 40 feet of murky water, fighting the current, something shiny caught his eye.

“Without even shining my light on it, it was clear that it has weight to it, and it was metal or gold,” Tovin said.

“And when I shined my light on it, I said, wow, this is the first time I’ve ever found jewelry underneath the water,” he said.

But it was more than just jewelry. It was a ring that had become the “stuff of legend” since the owner lost it nearly 40 years ago.

“I held onto it for the rest of the dive. I just didn’t want to lose it,” Tovin said.

Inscribed on the large, gold ring were the initials RLP and the date 1974. The ring also displayed the name of a nearby school: the College of Charleston. With those clues, Tovin’s journey to return the jewelry began.

Tovin first called the college’s alumni association. The college determined that only two people who graduated in 1974 had those initials, and one was female.

Now, Tovin knew who he was looking for: Robert LeVaughn Phillips.

After searching on social media, Tovin eventually connected with Robert’s son, Eric Phillips. Tovin quizzed him to make sure he had tracked down the rightful owner. Phillips e-mailed a copy of his father’s diploma, and Tovin was convinced he was in the right place.

Tovin soon learned that like so many other things in life, this very simple college ring — lost for so many years — had more meaning to it than many will ever understand.

“My dad was a storyteller, kind of a used-car salesman at times,” Eric Phillips said.

“He kind of has some of the same jokes, but he talked about the ring all the time because it came from his mother, and you know it’s just one of the stories that just epitomized a season of his life.”

Robert Phillips was boating on the Cooper River with his future wife, Nancy, when he lost the ring in 1974 — just two weeks after he got it.

“He was very upset and hated to tell his mom that he lost it,” Nancy Phillips said.

“Losing it in the river, we never thought we would never, ever, ever see it again.”

Growing up without his father in his life, Robert Phillips was determined to succeed on his own. He graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in business administration.

The ring, a symbol of all he had accomplished, was his mother’s last gift to him before she passed away from pancreatic cancer.

Tovin hoped he could return the cherished ring to Phillips at his home, but Phillips — now fighting cancer — was not there. He was rushed into surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston last weekend for brain surgery.

That setback didn’t stop a reunion 39 years in the making. A few days after Phillips’ operation, Tovin met Phillips in the hospital. With his family by his side, Phillips sat in a hospital chair. His voice was barely above a whisper, but it was full of life as a stranger returned a part of his life to him.

Down on one knee, Tovin opened up a ring box to reveal Phillips’s lost treasure.

“I was down there fighting strong currents and alligators trying to get you your ring back,” said Tovin, as Phillips smiled.

“And I’ve got it here, and I know this is going to look like I’m proposing to you, so please don’t tell my wife, OK,” he said, as the room erupted in laughter.

“Wow. That is awesome,” Phillips said.

Then, Phillips began to tell Tovin and everyone the story that his family has heard endlessly — the story of the lost ring.

“I was on the back of the boat. And I decided I needed a beer,” he said softly.

“I pulled the pop top and when I did, my finger got caught in the pop top, and it went with it,” he told Tovin.

“I guess I have to go have it sized now, don’t I,” he added with a grin.

“You’ve got a lot of years left. So, you’re going to be wearing that ring,” Tovin responded.

With his wife and two children watching this reunion of sorts, they all felt this ring would give their patriarch the comfort he needs right now.

“No matter how much time he has with us, we’ll always have that ring. And it will always signify a good season of our life and a good memory of our father, and the fact that he got to share in it before he left us,” Eric Phillips said.

In some ways, this decades-long loop of life has been closed, and a new story — one that the Phillips family will be telling for generations — has been written.

“Thank you Lord that I got it back,” Robert Phillips said.

“I had a nightmare the other night that I lost it again,” he said.

“No more beer cans,” he laughed.


Photo: Tim Sheerman-Chase


Join DEMA for “Decoding Congress: How Politics Shape the Dive Industry”




Join DEMA’s President & CEO, Tom Ingram, for an engaging discussion with Emily Coyle, a seasoned Washington lobbyist with over 25 years of experience in federal policymaking.

Learn how Congress does (and doesn’t) work, how politics influence policy outcomes, and their direct impact on the dive industry. Emily and Tom will also provide an update on the DIVE BOAT Act’s progress and answer attendee questions.

Don’t miss “Decoding Congress: How Politics Shape the Dive Industry” on June 25th at 12:00 PM PDT / 3:00 PM EDT.

Register in advance here and submit your questions for Emily.

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The Ocean Cleanup & Coldplay announce limited edition LP made using river plastic




  • Limited ‘Notebook Edition’ LP release of new Coldplay album ‘Moon Music’ made using river plastic removed from the Rio Las Vacas, Guatemala by The Ocean Cleanup

  • First collaborative product the latest step in Coldplay’s support for global non-profit

  • Innovative product partnerships essential for long-term success of The Ocean Cleanup’s mission to rid the oceans of plastic

The Ocean Cleanup and Coldplay have confirmed that a limited ‘Notebook Edition’ LP release of the band’s album ‘Moon Music’ will be manufactured using plastic intercepted by The Ocean Cleanup from the Rio Las Vacas, Guatemala.

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To achieve this, the non-profit operates a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy plastic in the oceans and deploying Interceptors to capture trash in rivers and stop it entering the oceans.

Today’s announcement with Coldplay of this Notebook Edition LP is an example of the innovative product partnerships The Ocean Cleanup creates to give this plastic a new life in sustainable and durable products, ensuring the plastic never re-enters the marine environment.


The Ocean Cleanup project deployed Interceptor 006 in the Rio Las Vacas in 2023 to prevent plastic emissions into the Gulf of Honduras. Interceptor 006 made significant impact and captured large quantities of plastic – which has now been sorted, blended, tested and used to manufacture Coldplay’s limited edition physical release. The final product consists of 70% river plastic intercepted by The Ocean Cleanup and 30% recycled waste plastic bottles from other sources.The successful production of the Notebook Edition LP using intercepted river plastic marks an exciting new phase in Coldplay’s broad and long-standing support for The Ocean Cleanup. Coldplay provide financial support for the non-profit’s cleaning operations, sponsor Interceptor 005 in the Klang River, Malaysia (which the band named ‘Neon Moon I’) and share The Ocean Cleanup’s mission with millions of their fans during their record-breaking Music of the Spheres tour.Coldplay and The Ocean Cleanup collaborated closely during the intensive testing and quality control process, alongside processing and manufacturing partners Biosfera GT, Compuestos y Derivados S.A., Morssinkhof and Sonopress.Having proven the potential of their partnership, The Ocean Cleanup and Coldplay will continue to explore new and innovative ways to combine their impact and accelerate progress in the largest cleanup in history.


“Coldplay is an incredible partner for us and I’m thrilled that our plastic catch has helped bring Moon Music to life.” said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. “Ensuring the plastic we catch never re-enters the marine environment is essential to our mission, and I’m excited to see how we’ll continue innovating with Coldplay and our other partners to rid the oceans of plastic – together.”


About the Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup is an international non-profit that develops and scales technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. They aim to achieve this goal through a dual strategy: intercepting in rivers to stop the flow and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean. For the latter, The Ocean Cleanup develops and deploys large-scale systems to efficiently concentrate the plastic for periodic removal. This plastic is tracked and traced to certify claims of origin when recycling it into new products. To curb the tide via rivers, The Ocean Cleanup has developed Interceptor™ Solutions to halt and extract riverine plastic before it reaches the ocean. As of June 2024, the non-profit has collected over 12 million kilograms (26.4 million pounds) of plastic from aquatic ecosystems around the world. Founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup now employs a broadly multi-disciplined team of approximately 140. 

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