An early morning fire left Garyjace Curotte’s new truck completely destroyed as PKs launched an investigation. (Steve Bonspiel, The Eastern Door)
If you live in the area of Bell’s Beach or Barnes Road, you were probably awoken by strange, loud popping sounds in the early morning hours last Sunday (August 25).
Garyjace Curotte’s red 2018 Ford F150, bought less than three months ago, was torched around 3 a.m., and the tires exploded.
Kahnawake Fire Brigade acting lieutenant Barry Diabo arrived on scene at 3:20 a.m., and the truck was already “down to the skeleton,” he told The Eastern Door on scene.
Sparks emanating from the fire were “magnesium metal,” according to Diabo, “and if you squirt that with water, it actually causes it to burn. It’s a strange metal. That’s all the sparks you see coming out.
“We weren’t really concerned with the house itself,” said Diabo, since the truck fire had dissipated by that point. But firefighters “doubled checked the eaves with the infrared gun” to make sure there was no danger.
Curotte was left to watch on his neighbour’s lawn, and he told The Eastern Door he’s had issues with certain community members who blame him for a rash of break-ins up in Tioweró:ton, which he strongly denies.
He said he’s looking at filing a lawsuit against seven Peacekeepers and the Mohawk Council, because he claims his name was put out to the public recklessly related to the break-ins, and, he said, he gets little help from local police when reporting threats against him.
Two of his workers were jumped and beaten up August 19 at his chip stand on the Old Malone Highway, which he said is related to the accusations against him.
Incidents like these, he feels, led to his truck being torched.
Curotte was sitting with friends in a vehicle across from the Legion, with the big Jeremy White event acting as entertainment for the trio, as they crowd-watched in the early morning on August 25.
Just after 3 a.m., Curotte received notifications on his phone from his camera system, and he could remotely see his truck burning.
“We raced to my house and when we got there my whole truck was on fire, just about done. My heart was beating, I was having chest pains. I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” he said.
Curotte was thankful, however, that his house and garage full of wood didn’t catch fire, but the siding was visibly melted.
“It would have been in flames and burned down,” he said. “I’m scared to be in my own house. They broke in a week-and-a-half ago. I called the cops and they didn’t do anything. I’m scared to cut my grass. I don’t feel safe to go anywhere.
“If my house caught I would have been truck-less and homeless. Where would I go?”
Camera footage viewed by The Eastern Door shows a suspect leaving the area from the passenger side of the truck, appearing to drive away in another vehicle.
Although it’s dark and Peacekeeper investigator Jimmy Jacco said the intense fire ruined any possible determination of finding its cause, police are investigating.
“We collected evidence, including the vehicle, and brought it to Goodleaf’s,” said patrol sergeant Watio Diabo. “We also collected other evidence and it is being examined.”
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Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.