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Stranded on a Fishing Trip in Manitoba

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+ See how OnStar and the community of Selkirk, Manitoba, came together to help Tanner Ouellette after his truck was stolen.

Tanner Ouellette is here to bust your preconceptions about millennials’ supposedly ceaseless appetite for the digital world. He and his friends like to leave it all behind and trek out to the middle of nowhere — places where adventures happen. Their phones only come out to do things like take photos of the biggest fish they’ve ever caught. More on that in a minute.

Along with his friend Wyatt, Tanner made the drive from Dickinson, North Dakota, to Selkirk, Manitoba, in Canada — a town with 10,000 people and countless trophy fish.

It was around 5:30 on a chilly February morning when Tanner parked his 2016 GMC Sierra Denali HD in front of a fast-food joint to snag a cup of coffee. He left it running — because that’s what you do when you drive a diesel and it’s 40 degrees below zero. They were inside for five minutes, but that’s all the time a couple of thieves needed to jimmy the door and drive off with his truck and the trailer hauling their gear and ATVs.

Tanner says he felt victimized in a way that he describes as “completely surreal — one of the lowest lows.” But within an of filing a police report, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had news.

Both kinds.

The good news: With permission from Tanner, OnStar was able to locate his truck using Stolen Vehicle Assistance,*14 working with law enforcement to ultimately recover the vehicle — which had been abandoned on a rural dirt road — and arrest the suspects, whose getaway car slid into a ditch about a mile up the road.

The bad news: Detectives needed 48 hours to process the truck and everything inside — including their fishing gear — as evidence. On top of that, they couldn’t find the keys.

What happened next speaks to the power of human connection. In some circumstances, that’s exactly what we need. With OnStar, it’s always there at the touch of a button.

News of Tanner and Wyatt’s predicament traveled around town like wildfire, in large part due to a social media post on a Manitoba fishing group page that went viral. Dozens of good Samaritans flooded police phone lines looking to help. Tanner’s cell phone number got out and people started reaching out. Folks like local bed-and-breakfast owner Louise Machinski and outdoor guide Dave Kozyra stepped up to provide Tanner and Wyatt with everything they needed.

As the owner of the Bridgeview Bed and Breakfast, Louise is naturally inclined to help take care of tired, hungry anglers like Tanner and Wyatt. When a friend at the police station called to tell her what happened, Louise acted on instinct and drove up to meet them and offer her place as their home base. On one condition: “You have to call your mother and let your parents know you’re OK!”

Dave is friends with Tanner’s buddy Kade, who was already on his way there with an extra set of keys and clean clothes. When Dave called Tanner, he didn’t ask for details. He just said, “I’m Dave, I’m friends with Kade. Let’s go fishing — I have all the gear you’ll need.”

One day after experiencing “one of the lowest lows” of his life, Tanner was out there on the ice doing what he loves the most. He might not have had his truck or his gear, but he was surrounded by good friends and hungry fish. For hours, Tanner kept getting the occasional ping on his depth meter. Down there, somewhere, was what appeared to be a really big fish. Late in the day, his line started to jerk. It turned out to be a 28.5-inch, 11-pound walleye that was so fat it couldn’t fit through the hole they’d carved in the ice.

“One of the highest high points in my life — biggest fish I’ve ever caught!” Tanner says.

He even took a picture with his phone to prove it.