Fort Mill Times

Nation Ford teacher helps solve drone mystery

Ryan Williams was glad someone found and returned the drone he lost over Springfield Golf Course last week.
Ryan Williams was glad someone found and returned the drone he lost over Springfield Golf Course last week. KELLY LESSARD

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…well, he wasn’t quite sure what it was.

At first, Nation Ford freshman Grant Bridges thought it was an airplane. As it got closer, he could see it from a couple hundred feet up.

Bridges was playing golf at Springfield Golf Club when it fell out of the sky.

“It” being a drone with a GoPro, a versatile digital camera commonly used to capture action shots, attached.

With no idea who it belonged to or what to do with it, Bridges placed the drone in a wooded area nearby, thinking the owners would track it with a locating device.

“I didn’t really know what to do with it,” Bridges, 14, said. “I was waiting for someone to claim it.”

Meanwhile, in the Springfield neighborhood, there was another 14-year-old boy frantically searching for his prized drone.

Ryan Williams, an eighth-grader at Fort Mill Middle School, was flying the drone – his favorite pastime – when he lost track of it. The compass on the drone malfunctioned and it did not have a tracking device attached.

Darkness fell as Ryan’s family and friends searched for the drone. The search party grew until there were “a dozen neighbors with flashlights” searching high and low, Williams said.

“We literally spent four or five hours out there trying to find it,” he said.

Neighbors see Ryan out flying his drone nearly every day and know how much it means to him, said his mom, Lori Williams. Ryan is a talented photographer who enjoys taking aerial pictures with his drone, she said.

“People were just so sad that he had lost it.”

The next day, Bridges went back to the course and found the drone in the same place he left it. Knowing that rain was in the forecast for the following day, he decided to take it home and figure out what to do next.

“I was like, ‘What in the world?’” said Wendy Bridges, Grant’s mom. “I had never seen one up close.”

The Bridges live in a neighborhood near Regent Park and had not heard of the Springfield residents’ efforts to find the drone.

One Springfield neighbor put a plea out on Facebook, asking for help for Ryan. Another neighbor printed out fliers and Ryan and his twin sister Sarah went delivered them door-to-door. While distributing the fliers, they told neighbor Cristi Sain, a teacher at Nation Ford High School, what had happened.

Sain told them she had overheard a conversation about a missing drone in one of her classes and that she was pretty sure she knew who had the drone and that she would ask the student about it.

“(Sain) told me she was confident he would do the right thing because she knew he was a good kid,” Lori Williams said.

That student was Jackson Bridges, Grant’s brother. Jackson, a Nation Ford sophomore, was golfing with Grant the day he found the drone, but was on a different hole at the time.

That same day, the boys’ mothers made arrangements for the drone to be returned.

“I felt good about giving them back their drone,” Grant said.

“I was smiling the rest of the day,” Ryan said.

“Those boys could have easily pocketed thousands of dollars,” Lori Williams said. “To me, they both showed huge integrity and honesty.”

Williams also praised the power of social media and a neighborhood coming together to help one of their own.

“It was just such a community effort,” she said. “It was really, really cool.”

“We like to hear good things,” Wendy Bridges said about her sons. “They’re good kids.”

And now Ryan is ready to get back to doing what he loves.

“More photos to come,” he said