January 14, 2013

Contractor tracks down his stolen excavator


Mike Holloway, who only earned his pilot's licence in the summer, took to the skies above Squamish to look for his missing $125,000 Hitachi excavator.

A high-flying demolition contractor from Langley, B.C. did some extra digging to recover an excavator that was recently stolen from his company at a construction site in Richmond.

“It is amazing what somebody can do to find out information. But, if I didn’t have my own airplane, I would never have found it,” said Mike Holloway, owner of Assertive Excavating and Demolition.

“I was lucky to have this resource available because the RCMP don’t have this at their disposal.”

The case began over Christmas when a $125,000 excavator owned by Holloway was stolen.

A crew from Assertive Excavating and Demolition had demolished three houses in Richmond for Townline Construction on Dec. 21 and left the machine at the site over the weekend.

However, when the crew returned for work on Dec. 24, the machine was gone.

The Hitachi 230 excavator, which weighs 27,000 kilograms, was stolen from the 9400 block of Alberta Road sometime in this period.

“It was reported stolen on Christmas Eve,” he said.

“The police phoned me and came out to the scene, then took a statement. They gave me a file number and said they would look for security camera video in the area, possibly at a school nearby.”

Richmond RCMP interviewed neighbours for information, but the investigation was still in the early stages.

At this point, Holloway started to phone everybody he knows to find out if they had any information about his missing excavator.

“Somebody had seen a machine similar to my description being transported on the Sea to Sky Highway,” he said.


The view from the Cessna 172 aircraft shows the stolen excavator on a lot in Squamish, B.C.

“Within a couple of days (Dec 27), I had some guesses that it was in the Squamish area. So, I decided to go looking for it and started searching between North Vancouver and Whistler,” he said.

Holloway began his search by looking at Google Earth for properties that are suitable for storing heavy machinery and equipment.

These are properties with equipment scattered all over.

Next, he flew his Cessna 172 from Pitt Meadows to Squamish on Dec. 30 and did a search in a grid pattern using GPS.

Holloway was able to narrow his search to specific sites, because most of the heavy machinery in Squamish is specialty logging equipment.

He also looked for distinguishing characteristics, including the excavator’s orange colour and black side guarding.

“It only took two hours in the air to find it, including getting there,” said Holloway.

“I reported it found to the Squamish RCMP. They came down right away and asked me to send proof the machine was mine.”

In response, he sent a text message with a photo of the machine’s serial number on a certificate from the manufacturer and paperwork showing proof of ownership.

Once the serial number was verified on the ground a few hours later, he sent a truck to the site and recovered his excavator.

Holloway has provided the RCMP with as much information as possible and hopes that the person who stole the excavator is caught.

Holloway flies the Cessna as a hobby, but he has not been a pilot for very long.

He started flying this summer and bought the plane about a year ago.


Mike Holloway and partner Rhonda Cox stand by their recovered Hitachi 230 excavator.

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