A bus that was stolen from a B.C. retirement home early Wednesday morning was recovered hours later in Metro Vancouver, hundreds of kilometres away from the crime scene.
The 20-seater is used to take residents at The Florentine on daytrips, and management at the Merritt facility said it was a huge relief that the vehicle was found.
"It was an excellent ending to the day," Florentine president Frank Rizzardo told CTV News on Wednesday night.
A number of tipsters reported seeing the bus throughout the day, including one person who spotted it moving erratically down Highway 1 and nearly striking another vehicle. The bus is decorated in a bright green wrap with a big picture of seniors, making it hard to miss.
Rizzardo said it was ultimately located in Burnaby, not far from Hastings Street and Boundary Road, which would put it about 264 kilometres from the retirement home.
"A resident there who saw your story called the RCMP and then subsequently called me," Rizzardo told CTV anchor Norma Reid. "I thanked him profusely and then started connecting with the RCMP to find out what the next process was to get it back."
Police are fingerprinting the vehicle, but The Florentine expects to have it back by next week.
Rizzardo said recreational trips for residents have been especially important this year, given everything they've been through. While there hasn't been a COVID-19 case at The Florentine, which offers a mix of complex care and assisted living, residents still experienced lockdown early on in the pandemic, when they weren't allowed guests and had to eat meals in their rooms.
Though the seniors are now allowed one designated visitor, with strictly scheduled appointments, life is still a far cry from normal.
"One of the things that everybody looks forward to is the activities outside the facility – being able to see the fall colours and going out on a road trip," Rizzardo said earlier on Wednesday.
The home's surveillance cameras recorded a man entering the building at around 2:30 a.m. Management said the bus keys were stolen, along with some cash and the keys to a Chevrolet Suburban that's used to shuttle residents to medical appointments. The Suburban was not stolen along with the bus.