New Brunswick

Owner of stolen truck uses family's helicopter to help track it down

When Emmanuel Toner realized his truck had been stolen outside a gas station in Grand Falls on Monday, he used Facebook and a helicopter his father owned to track it down.

Gave police mid-air updates of stolen truck's movements Monday

Emmanuel Toner and two family members used a helicopter owned by his father to track down Toner’s stolen truck Monday in central New Brunswick. (Submitted by Emmanuel Toner)

Emmanuel Toner walked into the Ultramar in Grand Falls to get a receipt after fuelling his truck just before noon Monday. 

The 2017 Ram pickup truck, with push-to-start ignition, was left running as he was inside for about 30 seconds. He walked out and saw his truck being driven away. 

For a moment, he thought a friend was playing a prank. But his key fob was still in his pocket. His truck had been stolen.

The realization set off a multi-hour pursuit by RCMP on the ground, and in the air using a private helicopter to track the truck across central New Brunswick and watch as RCMP arrested the suspect. 

The business owner said he thought the quickest way to track it down was to post a photo on Facebook. He posted the photo to the page of a grocery store he owns in the area. 

Emmanuel Toner posted this photo of his truck on Facebook, generating tips from people who spotted it Monday. (Submitted by Emmanuel Toner)

"In no time, we had lots of shares and likes and people were looking for my truck," Toner said in an interview. 

He started getting calls about sightings. 

His father, Teddy Toner, suggested using his privately-owned helicopter to search from above. Forty five minutes after the truck was stolen, they took off along with Toner's brother-in-law. 

The truck was spotted toward the southeast in Plaster Rock, then another report said the truck was headed east toward Renous on Route 108.

You can run, but you can't hide from the chopper- Emmanuel Toner, truck owner

They called the police, telling them about the sightings. 

From the air, Toner said the family spotted the truck speeding along the highway. 

He said they watched as police chased the driver but were forced to pull back on the rough, winding road.

The driver turned back west, so Toner said they updated police again, giving live updates on the truck's location and speed.

A helicopter owned by Teddy Toner was used to help track down the truck in central New Brunswick. (Submitted by Emmanuel Toner)

"I'm pretty sure at that point he knew we were following him with the helicopter," Toner said. "You can run, but you can't hide from the chopper."

Police put out a spike strip to pop the truck's tires. 

"We thought he was going to slow it down, but he actually stepped on it. You could see the smoke going out of the exhaust, so he was giving her everything it's got," Toner said. 

The suspect was arrested after police used a spike strip to pop three of the truck’s tires. (Submitted by Emmanuel Toner)

At first they didn't think the spike strip worked. The truck kept moving. Then smoke appeared around the tires.

The driver turned down a small dirt road and ran into the woods with RCMP in pursuit. 

Toner said the family watched as the person ran out of the woods and got in one of the police vehicles before police followed with weapons drawn.

They saw the suspect arrested, roughly two hours after the truck was stolen. 

The suspect was arrested after turning onto a side road and fleeing from the vehicle. (Submitted by Emmanuel Toner )

RCMP did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Toner said he didn't know the person who stole the truck. 

"He obviously didn't choose the right truck to steal because with a helicopter, if you know the whereabouts of the truck it's pretty easy to locate," Toner said. 

While he described what unfolded as fun, he said he's glad his two young children were not in the truck in their car seats when he stopped for gas. 

He said it should serve as a reminder to people not to leave their children unattended for 20 or 30 seconds to pay for gas. 

"The material is replaceable, it's only a truck. You can buy another one. It's insured. But kids or even dogs aren't replaceable so it's something to think about."

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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