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    Sandy Silver interview April 8, 2022 CHONfm

Kaska driver recounts highway attack

“It was a life and death situation,” said Tom Stewart.

Tom Stewart came upon a flipped car on the Alaska Highway on March 16. When he tried to help, the occupants of the vehicle got violent (photo provided by Stewart).

Kaska driver Tom Stewart pilots the Watson Lake Shuttle and Freight charter bus to Whitehorse and back three times a week. It is a routine trip for him but the journey on March 16 was anything but normal.

 

As he was returning from the capitol city, Stewart rounded a corner near kilometer 1046 on the Alaska Highway. There he saw a white 2021 Toyota Rav4 overturned on its roof. A trucker was pulled over to help the three people inside the vehicle. 

 

Stewart has first aid training and carries a satellite phone. He immediately told his two passengers to stay on the shuttle while he went to make sure everyone was okay.

 

“I was very concerned,” Stewart told CHONfm.

 

What happened next was not what he expected. As the occupants were climbing out of the car, they noticed Stewart approaching.

 

“What do you got in your hand?” one of them asked.

 

“It’s a satellite phone. I’m going to phone the RCMP and an ambulance for you guys,” Stewart replied. 

 

“We have warrants out for our arrest. Don’t call the cops,” the occupant responded.

 

That is when the three started attacking Stewart.

 

“It was a life and death situation,” said Stewart. 

 

They grabbed his satellite phone and smashed it on the pavement. Stewart and the trucker backed away to safety when another truck driver arrived on the scene and stopped to help. Stewart then went to check on his passengers. 

 

Assailants steal tractor trailer 

 

At that moment, the three from the flipped car swarmed the first truckers tractor trailer and took off with it. 

 

A few minutes later, a call came in on Stewart’s CB radio saying that there was a truck stuck in the ditch. They had only made it a few hundred feet. Stewart said that the trucker decided to go check on his tractor trailer and headed off down the road. 

 

At that point it was getting dark and Stewart could hear yelling. He went to check out the situation. When he got to the truck, the three were beating up the trucker. They had him on the ground and were trying to stomp on his head. 

 

“They ripped his shirt off and he was rolling around in the snow,” said Stewart.

 

Stewart knew he had to intervene.

 

“I grabbed one of them and threw him off. I grabbed the other guy and threw him off. I pushed the other person down and then the other guy attacked me,” said Stewart.

 

“So I hit him. I had no choice. That stopped them,” added Stewart. 

 

Stewart said that the assailants then argued with him for about two hours until the cops showed up. When the police did arrive on the scene, Stewart was told to leave because he was blocking the road.

 

According to a press release from the RCMP, the three tried to evade capture but they were quickly arrested. 

 

Turns out the Toyota they were driving was stolen from Dawson City earlier that day. 

 

Charges Laid

Stewart said the occupants of the turned over vehicle argued with him for almost two hours as they waited for the cops (photo provided by Stewart).

26 year old Kody Smith, 20 year old Michael Bennett, and 20 year old Kiara Hagen of Whitehorse have been charged with robbery and possession of property obtained by crime.

 

Bennett and Hagen have also been charged with failure to comply with a release order.

 

The three are in custody pending court dates. 

 

Stewart told CHONfm that the incident was so terrifying that he plans to go to Victim Services for support. 

 

“It bothers me,” said Stewart.

 

“It has impacted my life,” Stewart added. 

 

Stewart also said that despite that scary situation, he is grateful for those who helped out.

 

“It just goes to show you how much people care,” said Stewart.

 

“Those truckers are awesome,” he added. 

 

According to the RCMP release, the truck driver that was assaulted sustained minor injuries and was treated at Watson Lake Hospital.

 

Anyone who might have seen the stolen vehicle driving on the Alaska Highway should contact the RCMP or Crime Stoppers.

 

Published March 23, 2022. 

Written by: Dylan MacNeil

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