LAKE WYLIE -- The Lake Wylie diver saved more than a marriage when he popped up to the surface with gold in his hand.
This time, Cory Devereau needed just 14 minutes to retrieve a wedding ring dropped into the lake by accident the night before. Waiting for him was Marty Lorkowski, the husband responsible for the mishap -- and the guy lucky to have survived it.
"Had he not found that ring, I'm sure I would have killed my husband," joked his wife of six months, Lucinda.
"My life almost ended that day," Marty said.
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It's a familiar story for Devereau, the son of a U.S. Navy diver who has built something of a cottage industry out of retrieving precious items from the lake bottom.
As Marty partied with friends last Saturday night on a dock, the ring slipped off his finger and plopped into the murky waters below. "I was fiddling around," he said.
Lucinda had already gone to sleep on the couple's boat, a 27-foot Sundancer parked in a slip nearby at the Commodore Yacht Club. The Lorkowskis, both 32, live in Monroe, N.C., but spend most summer weekends at the lake.
On this night, Marty stayed up late to enjoy a few more beers.
"They say that he dropped right away to his stomach," said Lucinda. "They thought he was being sick."
Actually, Marty reached in vain for the diamond-studded ring he and his wife custom-made a year ago. Friends brought flashlights and a 20-pound magnet. No luck.
Decades of finds
Marty's smartest move was calling Devereau the next morning.
Over decades of diving from New England through the Southeast, Devereau, 55, has found rings worth more than $13,000, silver coins dating back more than a century and even an old BMW submerged in 26 feet of water, catfish swimming inside.
All he needs is a metal detector and a pair of earphones that beep when objects are near.
There on the lake floor, 4 feet beneath the dock, Devereau found the ring nestled among a bed of clam shells. He reappeared on the surface to a hero's welcome -- similar to the one he got two months ago when he retrieved another ring 12 feet from this spot.
The Lorkowskis paid Devereau $100 for his efforts. Said Lucinda: "He was worth every penny."