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Solving the Bizarre Mystery of an Unknown Man's Photograph Taped to a Southwest Flyer's Luggage

Published July 21st, 2023 by Emily

Every once in a while I see something on the internet and I can't quite let it go. For example, I came across this article by Gary Leff from View from the Wing. The article focuses on a tweet from someone who picked up their luggage after flying Southwest, only to find an unfamiliar man's photograph taped to the side.

I was shocked to find that the tweet only had one reply, from Southwest, saying they didn't know how this happened. If this happened to me, I would not let it go. I would find this man and personally ask him if he knows why his photo is on my bag. I also refuse to believe they have no idea what's going on. See more about my well-documented mistrust of airlines here.

So, I decided to look into this mystery. I have a little bit of experience in Open Source Intelligence, so I donned my investigator's cap and got to work. Surely this picture must have been posted elsewhere before it was taped to this person's luggage, right? A quick reverse-image search should reveal where the photo was first posted!

A bunch of dead ends

No luck. I tried searching on Google reverse image search, using Google Lens to find similar photos, tineye.com and even Yandex reverse image search and I found nothing.

I even tried cropping the photo so that only the taped photo would be shown and still found nothing. However, when I zoomed in on the cropped photo I could see there were some words in the background. Maybe they would lead to a clue. I flipped the image using Windows Photo Viewer and looked more closely.

It looks like it says DANY TEC. I cracked open my copy of Open Source Intelligence Techniques and tried various tools listed in the Image Manipulation section to get a better look (that's as close as I'm going to get to asking the tech to "enhance" on CSI) but nothing really helped.

As far as I could tell, it might say DANY LLC. I found a trucking company by the same name based in Texas. However, they hadn't posted photos of employees anywhere and no one listed them as their employer on LinkedIn, so that was a dead end.

A lead

My first break came when I searched for the image on PimEyes.com, a site that lets you search for more photos of the same person. I uploaded the full image of the luggage and was rewarded with a mugshot from a site "https://drunkdrivers.org". If this is the same person as the man from the luggage, it must be from a long time ago because this person looks a lot younger.

While PimEyes.com lets you search for free, you have to subscribe to get a link to the image. However, I refuse to pay. I used Google's reverse image search and the other sites I listed earlier on the thumbnail preview to find the original photo. PimEyes blurs the thumbnail around the face to try to combat this, so it doesn't always work, but I found the mugshot on a drunk driving website.

According to the information next to the mugshot, his name is Zachary Gene-tyler Krodel. The picture is from fifteen years ago, so this person would be 32 today. That age seems like it could match the original luggage photo.

I search several variations of the name "Zachary Gene-tyler Krodel" until I found a picture that resembles the man from the luggage photo. Bingo!

Our mystery man

Zachary Krodel works for Einstein Moving Company in Dallas.

It's possible that DANY LLC, the words from the background of the original photo, is the trucking company that Einstein contracts to drive their moving trucks. However that might be a bit of a stretch. I'm not totally convinced that it actually says DANY LLC, so the fact that I found a trucking company called that might be a coincidence.

Southwest WN 725 goes from Raleigh to Dallas and then from Dallas to Houston (according to the flight history from FlightRadar24), which matches up with Krodel being based in Dallas.

Comparing the two images side by side makes it even more obvious this is the same person. The eye, hair, and beard color all match, the eyebrows are the same, and so are the ears.

The mystery continues

Why is Zachary's photo taped to this person's luggage? Is this standard practice in the airline industry? Einstein Moving's website only advertises moving by truck within the same city or metro area. There is no mention of long-distance moving services that would involve transportation by air. And if they were moving luggage by air, is it standard airline practice to tape the picture of the person picking luggage up to the luggage itself? It seems like there would be a better system for this type of thing.

I've reached out to Gary Leff, who wrote the original article, to ask him these questions. Hopefully he's able to continue the investigation and close the case.