LEAMINGTON - When Leamington funeral director Kevin Reid came out from his funeral home after a service Tuesday morning, there was something missing.
The lead car in the funeral procession, a six-month-old black 2008 Buick Enclave adorned with purple funeral flags, was gone. Police say two men had jumped in, found the keys were in it and drove away at around 11:30 a.m.
"We just came out to start it and it wasn't there," said an incredulous Reid, the director of Reid Funeral Home on Russell Street. He said he has lined up the cars the same way hundreds of times before, without any problem.
Reid explained the situation to the grieving family members and the procession was briefly delayed while another vehicle was prepared.
Reid called police, notified them of the theft and told them the vehicle was equipped with OnStar, the General Motors in-vehicle system that can perform various functions and includes a GPS (global positioning system).
The funeral home staff generally leave the vehicles unattended in front of the home for about 15 minutes between the end of the service and the departure for the cemetery, Reid said.
"They would have had a fairly small window of opportunity," said Reid, who said the Enclave is used to transport himself and the minister.
"Stealing a funeral car from a funeral home is something unbelievable. It just absolutely boggled my mind when it happened."
Leamington police agreed.
"Have I ever heard of somebody taking a vehicle from a funeral before? No," said Leamington police Const. Kevin O'Neil.
"It's a different one."
Leamington police dispatchers contacted OnStar, who were able to track the vehicle.
The Enclave was traced to Pulley Road and police headed to that area and were then told it was heading north on County Road 37.
Police spotted the vehicle on County Road 37 near County Road 34. The driver spotted the police cruiser and pulled into a driveway.
Two men jumped out of the vehicle and tried to flee on foot but were quickly arrested at around 12:20 p.m.
"The guys when they were arrested couldn't understand how we found them," said O'Neil.
"It's pretty neat how OnStar works."
The vehicle, worth about $60,000, was not damaged and Reid retrieved it Tuesday afternoon. The funeral flags were removed but sitting inside.
O'Neil said OnStar has proven useful before when a stolen Cadillac Escalade was left in a heavily wooded area. OnStar was able to provide the general area and when officers still had trouble finding it, OnStar was able to honk the horn.
"From its inception, the motivation behind OnStar has been the safety and security of our subscribers and others on the road," said Janice Dickey, OnStar Canada manager.
"This situation is another great example of how OnStar's wide range of services can make the driving experience simpler, safer and more secure for subscribers."
Two Leamington men, aged 23 and 32, are charged with theft over $5,000 and were released on a promise to appear in court.