NORTH SYDNEY, N.S. — In the 50 years he has lived on Seaview Drive, Gary Standing has never seen anything as “crazy” as watching a person drive a front-loader tractor into a home.
“It was a pretty crazy morning, to say the least,” he said, during a phone interview with the Cape Breton Post on Monday.
“He was smashing into the (power) pole out there and I hollered to my girlfriend, ‘Oh my God he is doing this on purpose.’ And then I seen him turn around and he went ‘whoosh’ right into the house.”
Neighbours and other people say a woman and two children live in the home. Cape Breton Regional Police confirm no one was in the house when the incident occurred.
Standing and his girlfriend were asleep in their home on the other side of the street when a beeping sound woke them.
Standing thought maybe the storm forecast for Tuesday night had come early and the sound was a snowplow backing up, so he got up to see.
It was between 4:30 a.m. and 4:45 a.m. It was dark, but Standing could see enough to think the person driving the front-loader tractor wasn’t accidentally hitting the house.
“You could hear the crunching and then they snapped the pole off, sparks were flying up in the air… when I looked out I couldn’t believe it. I hollered to my girlfriend, ‘he is destroying that house over there,’” he said.
“(They drove) up around the house and it was done with purpose. You could see it. He was on a mission. And when he was done he just backed down the driveway and into town. That was it.”
Standing called 911 and his parents, who are in their 70s.
“My biggest concern was my mom and dad who live next door to me … if he was doing it to one house you didn’t know if he was going to tear down the whole neighbourhood,” he said.
“We kept all the lights off. Let’s face it, in a situation like that you don’t want anybody to really notice you … I think in a situation like that you shouldn’t confront an individual that has that much rage, when they are doing something so irrational.”
Jerome Bishop has lived on Seaview Drive for 21 years. Unlike Standing, the commotion didn’t wake him even though he lives only a few houses down the street.
“I never heard a thing,” he said, standing on his front lawn.
“I was getting up to bring my young fella to Cape Breton University when I saw the emergency vehicles. I told him he better hurry because the road is blocked and cops are everywhere.”
After the person in the front-loader tractor left the scene, he drove to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation outlet on King Street where police found the heavy machinery.
Police have arrested a 51-year-old man who is in custody. Charges are pending as the investigation continues.
Police confirm the man and the homeowner are known to each other.
“I didn’t realize the extent of the damage until daybreak. The house is demolished over there,” Standing said.
“It was very surreal to watch it. It was almost like something you would watch on television or a movie or something.”
Housing wrap from Central Building Supplies can be seen hanging from the broken pieces of siding and wooden beams. Some walls are hanging while others are crushed. A dishwasher and refrigerator are among the scraps of counter tops and cupboards.
“This is genuinely a very quiet neighbourhood. In all the years that I’ve lived here, I grew up here, I am in my grandmother’s house now, I have spent my entire life here,” said Standing.
“I feel bad for the people living over there. They lost their home so it can’t be an easy situation for them.”