EDMONTON — Dale Hasenuik knows he shouldn’t have taken the money, but says he was just trying to help.
The 61-year-old owner of a trucking business was driving from Fort McMurray to Edmonton on a cold morning last December when he came across a nasty crash on an icy section of Highway 63.
A G4S armoured vehicle had collided head-on with a pickup truck.
Another motorist had already pulled over and found the driver of the wrecked armoured truck dead. Hasenuik checked on the driver of the other mangled vehicle, who had also been killed.
Other people stopped to offer help and, as they all waited for police to arrive, Hasenuik says he and others kicked aside debris and small rolls of cash that were littering the road.
He then spotted a large bundle of money wrapped in plastic near the trailer hitched to his own truck. He thought someone else might try to steal it, he says, so he picked it up and put it in the back seat of his truck.
After about 45 minutes, when RCMP still hadn’t made it to the crash scene, Hasenuik drove to the nearest RCMP detachment in the village of Boyle. He says he handed over the money and explained what he’d done in a written statement.
The cash was counted at $130,000.
Three days later, while he was sleeping at home on his farm near Leduc, Hasenuik was arrested and charged with theft and possession of stolen property.
He says he was flabbergasted and still doesn’t quite understand the whole thing.
It seems the court agreed. At the beginning of a preliminary hearing in Fort McMurray last month, the charges were suddenly withdrawn.
“I should have been charged with stupidity for trying to do the right thing,” says Hasenuik.
He feels vindicated now, but is trying to rebuild his damaged reputation. After news reports of his arrest, Hasenuik says he received calls from questioning relatives and lost a large contract with an American company that didn’t want to be associated with him while he faced charges.
“I really looked like a shyster,” he says.
“They made me look like the lowest form of human being. It was as if I stopped in, grabbed money from the dead people, and then buggered off.”
RCMP and Alberta Justice did not provide comment.