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Dad upset as T-Mobile erases dead daughter's voice mails

The company apologizes after not making a grieving father aware that voice mails from his dead 14-year-old daughter would be erased from his phone. However, he is suing to force the company to retrieve them.

Rhema Butler, who died aged 14. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

What do you do when your 14-year-old daughter dies?

In the case of Faron Butler presumably you'll have already steeled yourself, as Rhema had been diagnosed with desmoplastic cancer two years previously.

Still, as he told ABC News, on the worst days, he liked to listen to voice mail messages she had left him in times past.

Then, one day, they were gone. Butler had no idea what had happened.

On contacting his carrier, he discovered that because he had signed on for a free trial of T-Mobile voice-to-text service, all existing voice mails on his phone had been removed -- with no notice at all.

"They failed to mention that they would delete my voice messages -- or I would have never done it," Butler told ABC News.

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Worse was the fact that when Butler asked the company to get those voice mails back for him, he was told they were gone. Permanently.

T-Mobile apologized and released a statement of regret which said: "When saving voice mail messages long-term, customers receive an alert and are prompted to re-save messages that they'd like to keep. Unfortunately, when the voice mail-to-text feature was added, which has a shorter window for saving messages, the voice mail messages were deleted."

Somehow, this didn't seem right, given the shorter window that Rhema Butler had been offered by life.

So her father is pressing ahead with legal action in order to force T-Mobile to somehow retrieve his daughter's voice.

T-Mobile told ABC News that Butler was "not adequately made aware" that the voice mails would be trashed. The company also said it was thinking of offering him money. But no amount of money can compensate for a memory.

One would have thought that, given the vast sophistication of the digital world, it would not be beyond T-Mobile to get the voice mails back.

However, Butler's attorney, Chris Crew, believes T-Mobile is resisting because it would cost the company money.

"What I think is really going on is that they don't want to tell people they can recover lost data, because then everyone will want their deleted items retrieved," he said.

I am sure that most people would sympathize if T-Mobile miraculously produced the voice mails and offered Butler free phone service for life.

I am sure very few would sympathize if the company dug its corporate heels in, perhaps on the advice of some highly paid lawyer who can foresee precisely what Crew suspects -- that other people will begin to make similar requests.

Sometimes when you make a mistake, there really is only one way to make it right.