Amid the tree limbs, overturned patio furniture and bevy of seashells washed onto East Coast beaches in Hurricane Irene’s wake was one slightly more exciting find: a box of hidden treasure.
At least that was the hope of the Lamberti family of Milford, Conn., who found a large green metal safe washed ashore on the beach in front of their family home.
My first thought was, ‘Oh wow, diamonds and jewelry and gold bars,’” said Victor Lamberti, 65. “Then you think maybe it’s just piles of money, and then you come to the realization that it could be somebody’s personal documents — wills and that kind of stuff.”
Lamberti said the family was out walking the beach last Sunday, Aug. 28, when they encountered a cabinet-like structure with two sides missing. Lamberti and his son, Victor A. Lamberti, 25, overturned the cabinet and found the safe in the middle. They couldn’t believe their luck.
“We stood there and laughed a lot, because we’d found money washed up in the past – five or ten dollars or the occasional wallet. But a safe, wow,” the elder Lamberti said.
With dozens of people out walking the beach after the storm, the Lambertis decided to drag the safe up to their home. Though his curiosity was piqued, Lamberti said he never really considered trying to open it.
“It’s a combination safe, you’d never figure it out,” he said. “Or you’d have to cut the hinges off with a blow torch or something. Besides, you never know what you’re going to find.”
The Lambertis notified the Milford police, and an officer came to their home and transported the safe to the police station in the front seat of his patrol car, Lamberti said. He estimated that the safe weight 100 pounds, was about 18 inches on all sides, and was airtight; there didn’t seem to be any damage. Because it was in good good shape, Lamberti said he believed it had to have traveled only a few miles during the storm.
On Tuesday afternoon, a Milford woman contacted police to claim the safe. She successfully provided the combination to open the safe and, alas, it was empty, according to Officer Jeffrey Nielsen of the Milford police department.
“She said they had been restoring the piece of furniture it was in, and it was empty,” Nielsen said. The police department had opened the safe that morning to see if there was any identification among the contents.
The woman was not identified and told police she did not want to speak with reporters. The Lambertis did not immediately return calls for comment about the safe’s fate.