‘I’m Stuck:’ Specially Equipped Minivan Stolen From Woman In Wheelchair On LI

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A thief targeted a woman on Long Island, stealing her specially equipped van right from her driveway.

Claire Helfenbein, 52, of Hempstead, has many things to do and many places to go, but she can’t since her wheelchair accessible minivan was stolen from her Byrd Avenue home two and a half weeks ago.

“I’m stuck, I’m stuck,” she told CBS2’s Reena Roy. “It’s been very hard, because being disabled you already have limitations. May van was my means of independence.”

Helfenbein said she parked the 2007 Chrysler Town & Country on Saturday night, making sure to lock it before heading inside. But when she woke up on Sunday to go to church with her children, it was nowhere to be found.

“Looked outside, the van is gone,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I’m like maybe the van rolled down the driveway.”

She soon realized she needed to call police, who are now investigating this as a grand larceny and searching for the suspect.

“It had to be that someone knew that the equipment and the van was worth something, because it’s a 2007 minivan,” she said. “Who wants to steal that?”

Helfenbein was born with a defect. She’s never walked a day in her life. Moving to American from Trinidad gave her the chance to be independent.

The customized car was fully equipped with a special seat, ramp and hand controls. The steep investment was made possible by her church, which helped her live an easier life, allowing her to drive her 12-year-old son with autism to school.

Helfenbein said her insurance doesn’t cover the theft and she has no money for a new car. So for now, all she can do is pray it turns up.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous.

More From CBS New York

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
Get Our Morning Briefs
Bloomberg WCBS Tri-State Business Index

Watch & Listen LIVE