DEVASTATED: Thieves steal and burn disability scooter, car
STRANDED at home is not how avid sailor Chris Cook likes to spend his time.
Volunteering with Sailability at Lennox Head, teaching people with disabilities to sail for the past two decades, is one example of Mr Cook's involvement in the Ballina Shire community, where he has lived for more than 30 years.
Now, he's is reliant on the kindness of his friends to transport him around the shire after his car was stolen and incinerated on Tuesday.
Thieves broke into Mr Cook's Fenwick Dr home and stole hundreds of dollars in cash, a credit card and the keys to his white Volkswagon vehicle before taking it for a joyride across town to Bagot Park near West Ballina, where the charred skeleton of the van remains taped off.
When police delivered the grim news to Mr Cook at 5am that morning, he realised he had lost more than just his car. Mr Cook, who has dwarfism, made the devastating discovery that his custom-made disability scooter was also in the van and destroyed in the fire.
His car, only purchased 16 months ago, and pedal extensions could be replaced by insurance, but he said the US-made scooter was irreplaceable.
"The main thing, though, was my electric disability scooter was in the back of the van ... (the scooter) really is like legs to me. It gets me out of the house it's my way of getting around shopping, getting out and about being involved and that has really been the greater loss," Mr Cook said.
Regaining his independence remains uncertain as the scooters available in the region aren't suitable for Mr Cook. But he hoped an old spare he owned could be repaired.
"I'm not in danger, I wasn't injured, the house is intact, my safety is not in threat, I'm not hungry, there's money in the bank," Mr Cook said.
"Really, we are only talking about material things and when you put it in perspective, which I am trying to do."
The attack on Mr Cook is not isolated, with several car thefts around the shire in recent months.
Anyone with information about the thefts, as well as witnesses to the van being driven around Ballina between 1-3.30am on Tuesday, is urged to call Ballina police on 66818699.