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Dude, where’s my backhoe? Gate-crashing thieves take big haul from North Bend's Westerlund Excavation | Photo gallery
Thieves literally crashed the gates of North Bend-based Westerlund Excavation when they robbed the business early March 23, but they weren’t trying to get in. When the people who stole the company’s 1999 International rollback truck got to the gate, they were already on their way out, taking the truck, the Kubota “mini” excavator strapped to the back of it, all the diesel fuel they could siphon, and the front gate with them.
“When they left, they just drove right through the gate,” said Don Westerlund, who owns and operates the business with his son, Lee.
The chain-link gate was dragged a short way before falling onto North Bend Way, where Westerlund said a friend saw it around 6 a.m. Saturday and called him.
A smashed gate was only part of the problem the Westerlunds found when they checked on their shop that morning. All of their tools had been stolen, along with most of the diesel fuel in other equipment in the yard.
“It was pretty devastating, and we’re still dealing with the insurance company right now,” he said.
Together, the value of the truck and trackhoe was about $75,000, he estimated, not to mention the cost of the forced downtime.
“We’re still operating, but only because the last couple of jobs we’ve been doing, we haven’t had to use that machine,” Westerlund said in a phone call last week. The stolen excavator, less than a year old, was used for smaller jobs, but the company’s primary work is in replacing water and sewer mains, requiring larger equipment.
“I have lost a little bit of work from it, because I can’t work for other people right now,” he added.
Short-term, he’s planning to rent the same type of excavator, for $300 a day, so he can keep working. Longer-term, the partners are hoping to recover the stolen equipment, and are offering a $5,000 reward for its return and the prosecution of the thieves.
Police are skeptical about recovering anything.
“The equipment will be difficult to track,” said North Bend Police Chief Mark Toner, “all they have to do is drive it out of the area, but the truck we should have better odds on… that particular one had some identifying features.”
Some nearby businesses may have security cameras that could provide information about the theft, but so far, police don’t have any suspects.
The thieves entered the lot by prying boards out of the wooden fence on the west side — the other three sides are surrounded with chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Once inside, they apparently broke the window to get into the truck, then hot-wired it to drive away. A neighbor thought she heard a crash, probably from the gate, around 12:30 a.m.
Anyone with information about the stolen equipment can contact the North Bend substation at (425) 888-4433. To contact Westerlund Excavation, call (425) 888-1976.
Still missing, thieves drove the Westerlund’s stolen flatbed truck right out the business’s gate, dragging it into the road. Anyone with tips about theft can call police at (425) 888-4433.
Co-owners Don Westerlund, top, with mom Peggy, and son Lee Westerlund, bottom, seek a Kubota mini-excavator stolen from their business.