Cops: Man uses forklift to reclaim truck; drives into pond during chase

September 18, 2012 (NEW CASTLE, Del.)

It happened over the weekend.

The owner of Stop-N-Go Auto Repair was alerted by a remote alarm at his home that something was wrong at the shop around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

When he got there, he found a gate knocked down and a pickup truck missing from his lot.

"I couldn't believe it was happening. I couldn't believe he would do it," said owner Jim Voegele.

The thief was captured on video surveillance arriving on the scene driving a heavy duty construction forklift. He pulls up front, turns around, and heads to the side of the building.

"He destroyed the back fence, and he picked up his truck with the forks and left," said Voegele.

The forklift driver has been identified as 30-year-old Donald Smith of Bear, Delaware.

The shop was holding his truck for payment of a $1,000 repair bill. In surveillance video, the forklift leaves with the pickup truck and drove down the highway with it.

At the time, the shop owner didn't know how the truck disappeared. So he called the police and called Smith to tell him that his truck had been stolen.

Then he got a call back from Smith who apparently hit his number by mistake.

"He said, 'Hey you won't believe what I did, I just stole my truck with a front loader. I got it back!' I said, 'Well, where are you at so I can meet up with you?'" said Voegele. "He goes, 'Who's this?' I said, 'Jim from Stop-N-Go.'"

Smith hung up and kept driving.

Police say when Smith got to the parking lot of an area bar, he set the truck down and then backed the forklift into some trees and brush.

Police found the truck, which was pretty banged up, but didn't see the forklift. The owner of Stop-N-Go arrived and, with a flashlight, spotted the forklift in the bushes.

Police say Smith took off, driving the forklift down DuPont highway, crisscrossing the median and driving into oncoming traffic.

He eventually veered off into a development and drove the forklift between a couple of houses and into a pond, where it became bogged down in the mud.

A very soggy Smith was handcuffed when he swam to shore.

Smith paid almost $6,000 to get out of jail. He allegedly caused about $3,000 worth of damage to the fences at Stop-N-Go, and an estimated $60,000 damage to the forklift that he allegedly borrowed from his employer's construction site.

All for a $1,000 unpaid repair bill for his truck.

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