A man who lost four fingers during a wake-boarding accident on a lake in Idaho this summer had become accustomed to telling the same joke whenever anyone asked why doctors were unable to re-attach his fingers.
Hahns Galassi, 31, of Washington state, would explain that the fingers were never recovered from the accident scene. And then he'd quip: "They're fish food."
Galassi found out just how right he was recently when an Idaho law enforcement officer called to tell him that they'd found his pinkie finger -- in the belly of a trout.
Here's what happened, according to Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler:
An Idaho fisherman who spent Sept. 11 fishing on Priest Lake was breaking down his catch when he found a remarkably well-preserved pinkie inside the trout's belly.
"He was quite shocked," Wheeler told the Los Angeles Times.
The fisherman contacted the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff said his first reaction was one that any law enforcement officer would have -- a finger? Where's the rest of the body? Do we have a crime scene?
But Wheeler said his second thought flashed back to an incident earlier this summer, also on Priest Lake:
A man -- identified by Wheeler as Hahns Galassi, although other media reports have spelled his first name differently -- was wake-boarding with friends on Priest Lake on July 4 when his left hand became tangled in the towrope. Four of his fingers were severed.
"We just kinda assumed that that's where the finger came from," Wheeler said.
Still, confirmation was needed. Wheeler dispatched one of his detectives to retrieve the finger from the fisherman's freezer. And a fingerprint did indeed trace the digit back to Galassi.
In an interview with KTVB, Galassi said he instantly knew what the detective was calling about when the detective finally reached him.
Galassi's reaction was mixed: In one respect, he had little interest in reuniting with his detached digit. But he wondered if reattachment might be possible given the lake's frigid temperatures, even in summer, and the fact that both the fisherman and the detective kept the finger frozen.
But a surgeon consulted in the case said reattachment would be impossible given the time lapse, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said his phone has been ringing off the hook with phone calls from journalists wanting to hear the story for themselves. "We've had over a hundred calls," Wheeler said. "I was just interviewed by the BBC."
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