A quick-thinking eight-year-old boy helped avert a potential nightmare scenario on Thursday in Qualicum Beach.
The boy’s father, Aaron Johnson, had stopped in his truck at the town Shell station at 2712 Island Hwy W. He and the youngster’s older brother quickly ran into the store, with the younger boy choosing to stay behind.
Within seconds, a random woman jumped into the vehicle and began driving away with the boy still inside.
Johnson said he had only been in the station’s store for a second, just enough time to pick up some gaming cards for the boys and take them to the cash register. When he exited, he immediately noticed his truck was gone and his youngest son came running up and telling him what had happened.
“My son said he was banging on the window and just saying over and over, ‘please let me out, please let me out.’ And he had been very stern with her,” said the boy’s mother, Dallas Kobylnyk. According to the boy’s statement, the woman listened and pulled over along Memorial Avenue. The boy scrambled out and ran back to alert his father.
“I had my truck keys on me and it’s a keyless truck. I guess because my keys were still within sensor distance of it, it still came on,” said Johnson.
While on the phone with the police, Johnson said two people arrived and identified themselves as the woman’s mother and a friend. They had apparently arranged to meet the woman at the gas station.
Johnson said his own cellphone was left in the vehicle. The woman used it to call her mother, who was still beside him. She asked to speak to Johnson, who calmly and sympathetically coaxed her to return his vehicle, undamaged.
“I said thanks for dropping my son off, if you bring my truck back in one piece, I’ll put my word into the police that I’d just like to see you get some help,” said Johnson.
She did return, after having been gone about 45 minutes, driving to Errington and back.
When she got back to the gas station, the RCMP were waiting.
Sgt. Stephen Rose of the Oceanside RCMP confirmed that police had received a report of a stolen vehicle from a gas station in Qualicum Beach on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 4 p.m.
Rose confirmed the account, saying the woman was distraught and appeared to be in crisis. The woman was taken the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital for an assessment. He said the incident remains under investigation.
“I’m going to be a lot more cautious. You think you live in a nice seaside community and that these things are big city problems, but it can happen anywhere,” said Johnson.
Both the boys were kept home Friday.
“This could have been extremely disastrous, this is not your normal scenario. By the grace of ‘something’ it was OK and my son was fine. I’m sad for (the woman). I’m sad for my son,” said Kobylnyk. “People need help, big time, right now and there’s not enough resources.”