Emmanuel Capitaine was finally reunited with his wheels last week after it got stuck at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Canada for about a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, newspaper Seven Days reported. Capitaine is a dual citizen of the U.S. and France, and took his son on a trip to France on March 11, 2020, the newspaper reported. They flew from Montreal to Paris, so Capitaine drove his Toyota RAV4 up to Canada and left it in the airport’s long term parking lot.
But by the time they were due to fly back to Montreal two weeks later, however, Air Canada workers said the man and son couldn’t board the plane because Canada had just put a restriction on non-essential travel across its border with the U.S.
“I thought it was a joke,” Capitaine told Seven Days. “But he was not laughing.”
The Vermont residents were able to get home by flying into Boston instead and renting a car, according to the report. But Capitaine still wasn’t able to retrieve his car from Montreal, and had to share his wife’s car during the lockdown.
Airport workers kept an eye on Capitaine’s car and periodically sent him photos, the outlet reported. And the understanding staff said he wouldn’t be responsible for the cost of the extended stay since he had no control over the situation.
“Because it’s a unique situation, they told me I won’t have to pay extra because they know I can’t pick it up and, legally, I can’t do anything,” the car owner explained.
After the newspaper first reported on Capitaine’s problem, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, Marie Hamilton, offered to help him out. According to the newspaper, Capitaine mailed her the keys and documents giving her permission to drive the vehicle across the border.
Hamilton got something out of the deal, too: an opportunity to see her grandmother in Vermont for the first time in more than a year, according to the report.
However, there was yet another hurdle in the way. A year of sitting idle had left the car with a dead battery, low tires and seized brakes, according to the report. Repairs cost Capitaine about $1,500.
After the RAV4 was once again roadworthy, there was still some question about what Hamilton would face at the border. Fortunately, she told Seven Days, the agent there had actually read about Capitaine’s situation.
“It was incredibly smooth – like one of the smoother crossings I’ve ever had,” she told the newspaper.
Most people waiting to cross the U.S.-Canada border may still have a long wait ahead. This week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that restrictions on non-essential travel would be extended through at least April 21.
“Informed by science and public health guidance, we will work with our counterparts to identify an approach to easing restrictions when conditions permit and with the protection of our citizens from COVID-19 at the forefront of our minds,” officials said in a written statement.