Black Press Media file photo of N19 bus

Bus stolen in Surrey overnight after driver took a bathroom break

A 28-year-old man is facing auto theft charges

A 28-year-old man is facing auto theft charges after an N19 NightBus was stolen from the Surrey Central bus loop early Thursday morning.

The suspect’s name has not yet been released. Sergeant Clint Hampton, a spokesman with the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, said the theft happened at about 2 a.m after the proper driver left the bus parked at the loop.

“The bus was left running, he went in to use the washroom, came back out and the bus was gone. He contacted police right away,” Hampton said, adding GPS was used to locate the bus.

“I believe at that time it was around 160th and Fraser Highway. With the assistance of the Surrey RCMP, the bus was pulled over at 176th and Fraser Highway, and the suspect, who is a 28-year-old man, was arrested. Whether or not there’s mental health issues here, that’s of course part of the investigation. Charges have been forwarded for theft of a motor vehicle over $5,000.”

No damage was done to the bus. “There were no other passengers on the bus and nobody else was injured.”

Hampton told the Now-Leader that this is the first time he’s heard of a bus being stolen in this region.

“At least in my time working in media, I’ve never dealt with anything like this,” he said. “I don’t have details on any other incidents like this. If there ever has been, it would be an extremely rare circumstance. I’ve been working on our media side of things for a couple of years now; it’s most certainly something that I’ve never reported on, so it’s not something that we deal with.”

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While the Surrey RCMP made the arrest, Transit Police have conduct of the investigation.

Asked if the suspect offered up an explanation for the theft, Hampton replied that “would be part of the ongoing investigation. There’s no real indication, as far as I’m aware, as far as what the motive was here, but like I said, that will be part of the investigation. It’s a strange circumstance, yeah.”

Anne Drennan, a long-time spokeswoman for the Transit Police, and Vancouver Police before that, could also not recall another case of a bus being stolen in this region.

But bulldozers, well, that’s a different story.

Decades ago, someone stole a bulldozer from a construction site in North Delta and drove it into Burns Bog, where in the nature reserve it continues to sink to this day, most of it now swallowed up in the muck beside a trail.

And then there’s that crazy incident on Dec. 16, 1993, when a 26-year-old man who had a bone to pick with the New Westminster police stole a D8K Caterpillar bulldozer from the Ritchie Brothers’ auction yard in Surrey and drove it across the Pattullo Bridge, chewing up asphalt along the way.

Surrey RCMP Inspector Dale Carr was a constable when he arrested the bulldozer thief, and earned a commendation plaque for it.

The thief, for his part, earned 90 days in jail.

“They said that he was unhappy with the fact that he’d been arrested in the previous week by the New West police department and they’d broke his sunglasses and weren’t prepared to replace them,” Carr recalled, many years later.

It was a Thursday, and he’d been eating lunch at the old Whalley police substation when the call came in. He “blasted” down King George Highway toward the bridge, devising his game plan along the way. “I think I’ll block him,” he thought to himself.

The big machine was destined for a gold mine up north, where there’s lots of ice and snow. It wasn’t intended for bridge pavement. The employees had tried to block the bulldozer with a truck but the thief pushed it aside and headed onto the Pattullo.

Carr parked his patrol car on the bridge and went running after it. Well, jogged, maybe. The bulldozer was only travelling about three kilometres per hour.

“He’s on a mission to go to New West,” Carr recalled. “Once it’s moving, what do you do?”

The driver started heading for the side railing after Carr jumped aboard. “I’m thinking to myself, if he hits the railing with the front, I have time to jump before it goes over. He’s totally ignoring me.”

People were running alongside the dozer, yelling “Shut the machine off.”

“I have no idea how,” Carr remembered. “I’m like, What?”

All of a sudden, Carr said, the guy jerked the dozer straight, and the Mountie fell off. He dusted himself off, got back up and by now the guy was wielding a crowbar as Carr was yelling at him to turn the dozer off.

With the thief distracted, another fellow on the other side of the dozer jumped on the machine and turned it off. Carr had a hard time trying to pull the thief off before realizing he had a seatbelt on.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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