Police Return Stolen Specially Equipped Minivan To Woman In Wheelchair On Long Island

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A wheelchair accessible minivan stolen from a Long Island driveway has been found by police and returned to its grateful owner.

Claire Helfenbein, 52, of Hempstead, was born with a defect and has never walked a day in her life.

Moving to American from Trinidad gave her the chance to be independent.

But she lost that independence when her van was stolen from her Byrd Avenue home on May 21, leaving her unable to get around and drive her 12-year-old son with autism to school.

The customized van, which was donated by an anonymous donor from her church, was fully equipped with a special seat, ramp and hand controls.

Officers recovered the vehicle in East Meadow over the weekend and returned it to Helfenbein on Wednesday.

“Oh my god, I mean it’s such a blessing,” Helfenbein said. “I am so thankful and I feel so glad that there were so many people so concerned and so kind.”

She’ll need to replace a tire, but otherwise the van is in prefect condition.

“I can’t believe how good God is that my van would go missing for all this time and God is so good that it was returned,” Helfenbein said. “I am truly, truly grateful.”

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

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