A man was arrested Tuesday after stealing a utility truck from the scene of a gas leak in Nanaimo and driving it all the way to Campbell River.
The incident happened shortly before 1 p.m. Feb. 2 on Brechin Road where a Fortis crew was repairing a break in a natural gas line caused by construction work. Brechin Road was closed to traffic for safety reasons by Nanaimo Fire Rescue, Nanaimo RCMP and the City of Nanaimo at the time, but that didn’t deter a man from hopping into Fortis’ newer-model Ford truck and driving off with it.
According to witness Alex Verardi, two workers associated to the truck immediately ran to a nearby RCMP vehicle, yelling that the truck had been stolen, as it took off with “its engine roaring.”
“I heard it and then I looked out the window and I saw the two men flying down the street toward the police [vehicle] that was parked at the end,” Verardi said. “They were yelling, ‘He stole it! He stole it!’ As soon as the two workers got halfway down the street one of the police SUVs took off after it.”
“[The RCMP officer] broadcast the vehicle and the plate to all other members and the vehicle was last seen driving down Brechin to Stewart and going southbound on Stewart,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. “The vehicle was quickly acquired by another member driving an unmarked SUV and it was stopped near the lights at Comox and Terminal [Avenue].”
When the officer turned on his lights and siren, the man in the stolen Fortis truck took evasive action by driving onto the sidewalk – nearly colliding with a lamp standard – and took off up Comox Road.
“The member did not pursue the vehicle because the risk to the public outweighed stopping that vehicle,” O’Brien said.
He said unmarked cars followed the vehicle out of Nanaimo as it continued northbound “with flashing lights on, so it was very easy to follow,” O’Brien said.
Campbell River RCMP took over the investigation once the vehicle was in their area and the truck was recovered that evening. A 22-year-old male suspect who recently took up residence on the Island was arrested for theft of a vehicle over $5,000 and remains in custody.