Nicholas Feliciano got a message from a friend around noon on Thursday with a photo of a red 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee stuck on Myrtle Beach in South Carolina getting pummeled by waves.
Mr. Feliciano zoomed in on the photo, and soon realized that the vehicle was his.
He had lent it to his cousin, Joe Farrar, a few weeks before.
Two minutes after getting the message, Mr. Feliciano said, the police knocked on his door to tell him they had found his Jeep.
Mr. Farrar was driving on the beach around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, trying to get a picture of the sunrise before Hurricane Dorian hit, Mr. Feliciano said on Saturday.
As he was turning, Mr. Farrar got stuck in a ditch in the sand and left the vehicle in search of help, but all of the towing companies he called said they couldn’t get to the vehicle before the hurricane was expected to strike.
Someone noticed the abandoned vehicle on the beach, and called the police.
Officers were sent around 7 a.m., according to a police report, but with the hurricane nearly upon them, they determined it was too dangerous for a tow truck to remove the Jeep. Before leaving, one officer attached a buoy to the bumper so the vehicle could be located later.
Photos of the stranded vehicle started to make the rounds online and in news coverage, and by 1 p.m. a local television station had set up a live feed.
So began #JeepWatch2019.
People began creating #DorianJeep memes, superimposing the vehicle on screenshots from films like “Cast Away” and “Titanic.”
As viewers began to monitor the Jeep, Joshua Kipp and Timothy Kipp — brothers who live near Myrtle Beach — hatched a plan to give the vehicle a proper send-off.
“Over dinner, we were sitting there enjoying the stress relief of it,” Joshua Kipp said. “I was thinking ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we gave it its last rites?’”
The brothers noticed a lull in the downpour, so they took off with bagpipes to find the Jeep.
“It was definitely windy and pouring,” Joshua Kipp said. “There was sand blasting in my face.”
Joshua Kipp said the attention on the Jeep helped relieve some of the tension about the hurricane, which decimated parts of the Bahamas and has been blamed for more than 40 deaths there so far.
Since it was posted online, the bagpipes video has been viewed and shared thousands of times. “We never thought it would go viral,” Timothy Kipp said. “I was going to be excited if we got 200 likes from our friends.”
The Jeep was removed from the beach on Friday morning about 24 hours after it was stranded.
It’s illegal to drive on the beach. No charges have been filed but an investigation is continuing, said Cpl. Thomas Vest, a police spokesman. The United States Coast Guard is determining whether any fluids from the vehicle leaked into the ocean, he said.
Mr. Feliciano said the vehicle looked like it had been vandalized — some of the windows were smashed and some parts stolen — and the interior was destroyed.
The vehicle was a total loss because of the salt water damage, he said. It was unclear on Saturday whether an insurance claim would be filed.
Mr. Feliciano’s sister-in-law created a GoFundMe page in the name of the red Jeep to raise money for the hurricane victims in the Bahamas, with proceeds to be donated to UNICEF.
“We may have lost a vehicle but that is small in comparison to what others have lost during this storm,” the page said. “Please help us help those in need! Thank you for the memes, and to the man who played the bagpipe — we love you!”