'I Finally Found You': Strangers Help Woman Track Down Long-Lost Photo Of Boyfriend Who Died in Oakland Fire

Image via Arken Avan/Facebook
Image via Arken Avan/Facebook

A woman who lost her boyfriend in Oakland’s tragic Ghost Ship fire has been reunited with a long-lost photo of the two on a trip to New York City, after the photographer discovered through Facebook that she was searching for it.


Griffin Madden was 23 when he perished in the blaze along with 35 others last week. In her grief, his girlfriend Saya Tomioka found herself grasping for happier times, and posted on Facebook that she hoped to find a photo snapped in Times Square two summers earlier.

“Some random photographer captured this very moment, this very kiss.... I never got his name, and he just simply showed us the single beautiful snap shot that he was able to capture.

I’ve always longed to find this particular photograph and thank the photographer.... Friends, possibly with your help, I can be reunited with this photograph, this treasured memory that I’ll always keep in my heart. I don’t even know if it’s possible, but please share this status if you think it is. I need some light right now.... I need a reminder of the brightest light of all—-love.”

Tomioka’s post was shared more than 300 times, eventually making its way to the page of Arken Avan, the Queens-based photographer who took the photo. As he told ABC:

“I actually remembered their faces because they really looked so adorable. I photograph couples, I love couples. I photograph everything romantic, everything about love. I saw her lipstick on his cheek and she was having a pretzel that time when I photographed them.”

Tomioka returned to Facebook to write that she was overjoyed at the reappearance of the photo, and her strength in the face of such loss is lovely and heartbreaking.

I’ve finally found you. I sobbed when I saw this photo in Thom’s arms, and then, I immediately laughed uncontrollably. Life is so strange. I’ve lost you, but I’ve never felt stronger in my life. Through our many years of love and growth, I learned how to be strong from you.


I am at peace. I loved you openly and endlessly from the moment I laid my eyes on you on my first day at UC Berkeley as a freshman. I have no regrets, no question that you ever doubted my love for you. Sweetie, I know that you loved me just the same. Your love for me echos through all the support I have been receiving from our friends and family. I am surrounded by the most beautiful, endless love from the people who love you. I will miss you desperately; everyone who knew you will miss you just as much. Your light touched so so so many people, and you taught/will continue to teach us to live our lives just as fully, youthfully and kindly as you did. I promise you that I will never stop dancing; I’ll dance even harder. I will never stop laughing; I’ll laugh even louder. I will never stop loving; I’ll love even prouder.


The cause behind the fire remains unknown, after authorities ruled out the wiring on a refrigerator that was near where it sparked.


chocolate covered raisons d'être

Can we turn off Jez for the night on this sweet heartbreaking note? Before some awful Trump bullshit ruins it?