August 20, 1997 in Nation/World

Family’s Plight Was More Than Town Could Bear Floridians Chip In After Theives Steal Everything Coloradans Had

Johnny Diaz Miami Herald
 

Teddy’s back.

So are some of the personal belongings of the Austin family, whose 26-foot U-Haul, packed with everything they owned, was stolen in Pompano Beach.

“I’m excited,” said 9-year-old Briana Austin, who had kept Teddy, a fuzzy panda bear, close to her heart since she was 2. “I was sad when he was gone. I sleep with him every night.”

Hialeah police on Monday found the U-Haul, which was stolen Friday night or Saturday morning. All that was left inside were a few boxes filled with family photos - and Briana’s Teddy.

When word got out that the Austin family, who moved from Denver to South Florida last week, had been robbed of their furniture, family pictures, toys, clothing and important documents, the phone calls started to pour in.

U-Haul gave the family of seven $2,500 and lent them a truck to pick some of the donations that callers had offered.

“We are flabbergasted to death,” said Chuck Austin, who was relocating his family and their two dogs to his company’s sales office in Pompano Beach. “We got practically a brand-new box springs set, and right now in our dining room we have a full-size table with six wooden chairs.”

Austin had parked the truck with Oklahoma plates and a Michigan scene painted on its sides at the Days Inn motel when the family arrived late Thursday from Denver.

They were temporarily staying in Pompano Beach because Chuck’s new boss lives there.

The last time they saw the truck, with one of their cars latched to the back, was Friday.

When they woke up Saturday morning, the U-Haul was gone. The thieves had unhooked the car and left it in the parking lot.

“You sit there, and you are in shock about losing all your stuff, and it’s such a surprise to have everyone giving us all this stuff,” Sandi Austin said. “We are telling people, ‘Sorry, we don’t need more couches.”’

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