“A freak wave got me."
That's when Beaufort, South Carolina, resident Merritt Yeager said it started to go wrong while he was on vacation with his family on the western coast of Florida. Yeager had waded shin-high into the Gulf's waters when he removed his prosthetic ear to place it in his pocket.
A sudden wave smacked him in the chest, and the next thing he knew, the ear was gone.
"It sank, basically," Yeager told ABC News. "I should have put it in my pocket before I approached the water, but these things happen."
Yeager and his family frantically searched the shore for signs of the missing appendage — which works via magnetism and costs thousands of dollars — to no avail.
So Yeager was "amazed" when a friend reached out to his wife, Jennifer Yeager, with news that someone from the area had posted a note on Facebook looking for the owner of a prosthetic ear that had been recovered from the beach.
The ear had been turned in to an officer with the Holmes Beach Police Department after being found on the shoreline during an Ironman competition.
When asked if this was the first ear that had ever been turned in to the department, Sgt. Detective Brian Hall gave ABC News an enthusiastic "yes."
"At first, [the officer] wasn’t sure if it was a prosthetic or if it was a real ear," Hall continued.
"We posted it on Facebook…knowing that we had probably a slim chance of finding the owner," Hall said. "But sometimes social media actually does some pretty good things."
After contacting the police, Merritt provided proof from his doctor that the ear belonged to him. The police department has shipped the ear back.
Merritt said he plans to tell people he was riding a manatee when it happened.
But it was his wife who got the last word. "I let my husband have it when he lost the prosthetic," she told ABC with a laugh. "I was pissed."