SURREY — A family moving from Saskatchewan to Victoria is devastated after a U-Haul containing all their worldly possessions was stolen in Surrey earlier this week and found nearly empty in Abbotsford.
It carried a life’s worth of belongings and memories and as of Monday morning, the small family isn’t sure if U-Haul will pay to replace what’s been lost.
On Tuesday (Dec. 29), Michael and daughter Meghan Suiker stopped to spend the night at a friend’s home in Surrey’s Rosemary Heights neighbourhood during their trek to the island.
It was just another stop on their “great adventure” to their new life, he said.
On Wednesday morning, Michael woke up and went to check on the 34-foot truck and 18-foot trailer.
His heart sank.
After calls to the city to see if it had been towed turned up nothing, he realized it had been stolen and called police.
Furniture. Decor. Towels. Camping equipment. A generator. Toiletries. Cooking utensils. Bedding. Even an ATV.
News that the truck had been found in a Rona parking lot in Abbotsford was welcomed, but after seeing what was left, Michael was devastated.
“Everything was gone with the exception of two boxes,” he told the Now.
One was a Rubbermaid container with photo albums, and the other contained framed photos.
No word on the trailer or ATV as of Monday morning, he added.
“We’ve worked very hard to have an enjoyable life,” the father said. “We’re very appreciative of what we do have and we may very well have to start over from scratch on a very limited budget.”
The family may be in trouble as Michael says initial talks with a U-Haul rep on the island have suggested he may not be covered.
Michael says he bought insurance – the “SafeMove” package – which he believed covered liability, damage and contents.
Meanwhile, he wonders what kind of anti-theft devices U-Haul utilizes.
“I have a real concern about how easy it is to take that truck,” he said, questioning what the company could or should do to prevent thefts like his family experienced.
Acting Sgt. Pat Kelly of the Abbotsford Police Department said forensic detectives are fingerprinting the stolen truck in hopes of locating suspects.
Despite the size of the truck and trailer stolen in South Surrey and driven to Abbotsford, there is not necessarily a sophisticated criminal operation involved in the case, Kelly said.
“Unfortunately, U-Hauls are quite easy to steal and they are likely filled with lots of high value goods that can very quickly be pawned,” Kelly said.
“It’s a target almost like a car filled with Christmas gifts in a parking lot.”
The Now contacted U-Haul to see if Michael’s insurance will cover the family’s loss and to see what anti-theft devices they use.
Jeff Lockridge, manager of media relations for U-Haul International, said in an email that he had read about the theft of Suiker’s rental. He called it “clearly terrible and trying circumstances for him and his family,” adding, “We certainly sympathize with him and anyone in his situation.”
Lockridge noted U-Haul insurance contracts state, “At no time will Safemove, Safemove Plus or Safetow cover theft of your owned motor vehicle, accessories, or personal contents in the towed trailer or rented truck.”
As to the addressing theft, he said: “U-Haul retains its own robust investigations unit that interacts closely with law enforcement and U-Haul Team Members across North America. We don’t want to see any of our equipment stolen and work diligently to deter unlawful acts against U-Haul and its customers.”
The Now has asked him to elaborate on methods or equipment the company uses to prevent theft.
Lockridge declined to provide any statistics on how many rented U-Haul vehicles have been stolen over the past two years.
“We had lots to look forward to and still do,” Michael said of the family’s new home. “This isn’t going to stop us from building a great future here but it puts a little bit of a twist on how we’re going to continue from this point.”
– With a file from The Province