Theft of North Dakotans' truck turns into 'awesome experience' thanks to friendly Manitobans
'The whole community of Selkirk … stood up and showed its true colours'
A couple of North Dakota men say the people of Selkirk, Man., rescued what could have been a terrible fishing trip after their truck and all their gear was stolen.
"It started out as a very unfortunate experience, and Selkirk made it into something that I'll probably never forget," said Tanner Ouellette of Dickinson, N.D.
"It was just crazy how they pretty much took us in," said his friend Wyatt Wahl of Bismarck, N.D.
Ouellette's 2016 Sierra Denali was stolen early Friday morning and quickly found by RCMP, but it was impounded — with all the men's fishing gear — for two days as police gathered evidence against the two suspects they arrested.
Wahl and Ouellette had travelled up to Selkirk, about 35 kilometres north of Winnipeg, on Thursday night so they could spend the weekend ice fishing.
They got to their Selkirk hotel around 11:30 p.m. but got up at 5:30 a.m. Friday to head farther north to Lake Winnipeg.
Coffee seemed necessary, so they popped over to the McDonald's next to their hotel on their way out, with all their gear in Ouellette's Sierra Denali Duramax, which was towing a trailer.
They left the truck running but Ouellette hit the lock button on his extra key fob.
"[We] came out and the vehicle was not there, and my buddy [Ouellette], like, looked at me, like 'What the heck? Did we park here?'" Wahl said.
Ouellette ran around to see if he could spot the truck while Wahl went back into the McDonald's and got staff to call the RCMP, who said they received the report of the stolen truck at 6:15 a.m.
After that, the two went back to the hotel next door, all plans of fishing gone with the truck.
They waited while police started patrolling, looking for the truck, which was equipped with OnStar, a General Motors product that provides not only hands-free calling but GPS navigation and security.
Ouellette told police his truck had OnStar, so police contacted the company, which told them where the truck was and that it had been turned off remotely, RCMP Sgt. Paul Manaigre said. Police found the truck abandoned on the side of Mowatt Road in the rural municipality of St. Clements.
"I didn't even know that was a thing," Ouellette said about OnStar turning off the vehicle.
The thieves weren't with the truck, so police started looking for them. They found another vehicle in a ditch farther down Mowatt Road, with a man and a woman in it, at 7:15 a.m., Manaigre said.
"The two occupants were questioned and officers came across stolen property inside the vehicle that had been removed from the pickup truck," an email from Manaigre said. The two and another man all face charges.
Ouellette and Wahl got a ride out to the location of the truck, but they couldn't go near because it was a crime scene, so they ended up going back to the police station to wait to find out what would happen next.
That's when Selkirk's friendly Manitobans kicked it up a notch.
"Some people come running in and they want to take us fishing," Ouellette said.
Call for help on social media
Before 10 a.m. Friday, a post was up on the Ice Fishing Manitoba Facebook page, suggesting someone take the guys out fishing because they can't use their own gear. That post generated more than 100 comments, many of them offering equipment, transportation and a day of fishing.
The North Dakotans started getting Facebook and Instagram messages, texts and phone calls, all offering help.
"The whole community of Selkirk … stood up and showed its true colours," Ouellette said.
"It was insane how friendly everybody was and how this community all came together to make our trip a lot better than it could have been," Wahl said.
One man even offered to lend them his vehicle for the weekend.
"That was a crazy offer," Wahl said.
They couldn't take any of the offers right away because they were still dealing with the theft, so Louise Machinski of Bridgeview Bed and Breakfast took them to her place and fed them.
"She made us feel like we were just, like, at home," Wahl said.
"It was awesome. Thank you, Louise," Ouellette said.
The two fishermen were still without gear, but that was taken care of by the community. Dave Kozyra, whom they'd met on another fishing trip, took them out on Saturday.
"We went out fishing the next day with none of my stuff," Ouellette said. "I didn't expect anything like that and it was awesome."
'I'll be right back'
The pair come up to Canada to go ice fishing two or three times every year, they said, but they've never had an opportunity to really get to know the locals.
Their misadventure hasn't soured their opinion of Selkirk — but the community's response to their plight has them singing its praises.
"It was awesome, Selkirk. I'll be right back when I have the opportunity," Ouellette said.
The truck could have been stolen anywhere, said Wahl, who's more surprised by the response of the community than by the crime.
"There's bad people everywhere, and there's good people to fix it," he said.
Three people from Winnipeg have been charged in connection with the theft and are being held in custody.
A 43-year-old man is charged with stealing the truck, possessing stolen property and break-in instruments, possessing a controlled substance and failing to comply with probation. Another man and a woman are charged with possessing stolen property and break-in instruments.
With files from Meaghan Ketcheson