Theft of wheelchair-equipped van a blow to Langley family

A local family is facing a major expense after thieves stole their wheelchair ramp-equipped van from the Carvolth Transit Exchange on Jan. 2.

Glen and Shannon Carpenter have been busy lately – the Langley City couple have twin boys aged two and a half, and Shannon just went back to work.

She’d started commuting through the Carvolth Exchange in Willoughby, leaving one of the two family vans parked there during the day.

Last Friday, she came back on the bus at 5:30 p.m. to find that the van had disappeared sometime after she’d parked at 7:30 that morning.

“I was shocked and a bit upset,” Shannon said.

Also lost were two children’s car seats and a high-end double stroller for the couple’s sons, Daniel and Ethan.

While the loss of a family vehicle would be an annoyance and financial burden for any couple, it’s doubly so for the Carpenters.

Glen has used a wheelchair since he was 11 years old, when he fell off a cliff in White Rock and broke his back.

For years, he was able to transfer himself into his vehicles by swinging himself in to the driver’s seat, but a shoulder injury some years ago led to his doctor encouraging him to stop.

For the past several years, both family cars have come with ramps that allow Glen to roll right in on his wheelchair.

His own van came with hand controls for the brake and gas.

But for the second family vehicle, the Carpenters had to wait for a stroke of luck.

A used 1998 Plymouth Grand Voyager might not be the dream vehicle for everyone.

“We jumped at the chance,” Glen said. The van already came lowered and with a wheelchair ramp installed, and with a trade in, it was a good deal for the couple.

Glen works at Shoppers Home Health Care, which among other things, installs lifts, ramps, special seats, and hand controls in vehicles. Many wheelchair equipped vehicles are lowered vans, to accommodate fold-out ramps. Modified vehicles give many people who use wheelchairs the freedom to get to school, work, and shopping without having to rely on HandyDART or transit.

After hearing about the Plymouth through work, Glen and Shannon snapped it up. It allows Shannon to use a vehicle big enough to hold the twins and stroller, but which can also take Glen as a passenger. It gave them the option for either parent to drive the whole family.

Now they are waiting to hear from the police whether their van has been found, or from ICBC to see what they can afford when it comes to a replacement.

“They start at $44,000 for a new converted van,” Glen said. They don’t expect to get that much back for their stolen 17-year-old van from ICBC.

Shannon said the family is still making payments on Glen’s van, and with two little boys, they can’t really afford to make payments on two vehicles at the same time.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Glen said.

The couple has already started scouring Craigslist, Kijiji and other sites, looking for a suitable replacement vehicle. If they can’t find anything, they may have to get a cheaper vehicle that can’t take Glen.

In the meantime, they’re relying on a rental car for Shannon to get to work.

“We’ll be without a vehicle probably for two to three weeks,” she said.

Glen had been hopeful that the van was just taken for a joyride and would be found quickly, but it hadn’t turned up as of Wednesday.

Considering the van not only was clearly intended for wheelchair users, but had children’s strollers and car seats, Glen is amazed the thieves decided to target it.

“They’ll steal anything, I guess,” he said.

The stolen white Plymouth Grand Voyager’s license plate is 125 TEV.

Anyone who has seen the Plymouth, or who has information that can help find the van or the thieves, should call the Langley RCMP at 604-532-3200. To remain anonymous, call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), text BCTIP and your message to CRIMES (274637), or visit www.facebook.com/metrovancouvercrimestoppers or www.solvecrime.ca.

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