KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A lineman from Iowa who helped get the lights back on in Florida was left in the dark when his gear was stolen in Knoxville on his way home.

After Hurricane Ian hit Florida, 58-year-old Chris Demaray worked with a crew in a swampy area of Florida for a week and a half. Once work was completed, Demaray and the crew headed back home, stopping October 7 in Knoxville to spend the night at a Quality Inn on Cedar Lane, off of Merchant Drive.

On the trek from Florida to East Tennessee, Demaray got separated from the rest of the crew by traffic in Atlanta, Georgia. Because of a miscount, his gear was in the bed of another truck. The rest of the crew and Demaray’s gear got to Knoxville in the evening, going to bed around 10:30 PM.

Demaray arrived a little before midnight and found that the other crew members had forgotten to place his gear in the truck and that two of his cases containing his gear had been taken. Although a third case and some other items had been left.

“By the time I got there, it was gone.” Demaray said.

After consulting the front desk to see if security footage might show the gear being grabbed and finding the manager would have to be there to review any previous footage, he called the police to file a report. He realized his gear was likely gone for good and continued home early the next morning.

Demaray estimates his gear will cost $6000-$7000 to replace, as it is highly specialized and includes what they need to climb the poles and to safely work on the lines. However, the gear has more than a monetary value. The equipment he has used his whole 23-year career and bought as an apprentice. The most important pieces to him, his belt, hooks, and some other pieces, he was hoping to give to his son one day.

Aside from the sentimental value, the gear would be incredibly difficult to replace. The newer gear that he could buy has been made with different materials and features, adding to the price it will take to replace it.

“The funny thing is that my stuff is all old school. None of the young kids want it, so it’s really not worth anything to anyone besides me.” Demaray said.

Some of the other items that were taken include all of his flame-resistant clothing, two new Pelican Air Suitcases, his tools, his climbing gear, and souvenirs that he had picked up for his fiancé and their children.

The police report for the incident places the value of everything stolen around $5,650, with the belt, harness, clothing, and boots accounting for over $4000 of that amount. Other equipment on that list included 3 MV batteries, screwdrivers, channel locks, knives, and impact drivers. The thousands of dollars worth of gear is not optional to replace either.

Demaray cannot return to work without replacing the gear, but he says the important value that the gear had was sentimental value.

In the midst of this, Demaray recognizes the kindness found in the lineman community. After the gear was stolen, Demaray’s fiancé, Courtney, went to social media, sharing what had happened in a Facebook group for lineman wives. Demaray says that people began reaching out, offering to try to help find the gear at pawn shops or even offering their own gear.

“I was shocked at how many people contacted Courtney from the Knoxville area, linemen that were going to go check the pawn shops for my stuff right away, the next morning after she posted it actually,” Demaray said. “I’ve got strangers… linemen from North Carolina sending me something, I have retired linemen that I’ve worked with over the years that are offering up their belt and hooks, their tools. It’s quite the feeling. The rest of the stuff I really don’t care about. The hooks were the.. they were just kind of sentimental.”

Looking back on the situation, Demaray takes most of the blame on himself. When he recalled what happened, he explained the long shifts that linemen work and how he could have prevented it.

“It was my own fault. I should have moved the stuff back to the truck I was on. I just figured that they would lock it up for me, but they forgot about it so. We were all tired.” Demaray said “We work 16 hour days when we’re on storm, but by the time you eat and try to relax, you get about four to five hours of sleep a night when you’re down there, and I’m getting up there in age, so it’s starting to wear on me.”

Anyone with information in the case is encouraged to contact the Knoxville Police Department at (865) 215-4010 or contact the East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers at (865) 215-7165