Nanaimo Mounties are investigating two reports of lug nuts on vehicle wheels being loosened after a wheel came off of a car and rolled through a city park this week.
Both incidents happened sometime during the day on Wednesday, March 10, while the vehicles were parked near Serauxmen Stadium on Third Street.
In the first incident, Ethan Perpeluk, 17, told police he parked his Dodge Caliber at 8:10 a.m. and returned at 12:10 p.m. Unbeknownst to him, when he drove out of the parking lot, the lug nuts had been tampered with, according to Nanaimo RCMP.
After a few minutes of driving, Perpeluk started noticing a strong vibration and pulled over on the side of Bowen Road near Bowen Park. Just as he was bringing his vehicle to a stop, he saw his tire come loose and roll nearly 200 metres through the park before coming to a rest near the tennis courts.
“I had actually gone to go pick up my friend because his car was being worked on,” Perpeluk said. “I’d driven away from NDSS, not knowing anything.”
Perpeluk was making his way back up Bowen Road when he felt the wheel coming loose.
“I thought I had a flat tire or had rolled over something because there’s construction around … I actually just started to pull over and that’s when I heard it really going and before I knew it I looked out the right and my wheel goes soaring by me and I hit the ground and started drifting,” he said.
Perpeluk estimates he was going less than 50 kilometres per hour when the wheel came off and went through an area where there were about 10 people playing Frisbee golf.
“I just looked to the side and said, ‘holy cow,’” he said. “Thank goodness nobody got hurt.”
He then told his friends about his experience, which may have averted a second incident when another 17-year-old returned to his Ford F-150 and found that his rear passenger wheel had also been loosened. His pickup had been parked three stalls away from the first victim’s vehicle.
Perpeluk’s car suffered minor damage and will have to be repaired at a body shop. He said he’s grateful his friend wasn’t in the car with him.
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said the the tampering was an extremely dangerous act.
“We’re working on several theories,” O’Brien said. “Most of the kids from NDSS park their vehicles there. It could have been a joke gone sideways and they just did not realize the implications of their actions, which could have been deadly. The other one is it’s a malicious act. We haven’t seen any connections between the two and we’ve spoken to the boys and there’s no ill will towards them. There’s nobody that’s out to get them.”
O’Brien said police are hoping someone might have seen a person who was possibly crouched down and appearing to have been working on a vehicle.
“Somebody may have seen somebody, thinking they were working on a car, and they haven’t reported it to us,” he said. “Also anybody else who has had their lug nuts removed or loosened, we need to hear from them.”
Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to call the Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345, and quote file No. 2021-8674.