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Long IslandCrime

LI family’s custom van for disabled sons recovered after theft

Rob Gasperetti, right, thanks Nassau County detectives on

Rob Gasperetti, right, thanks Nassau County detectives on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, for finding the specially equipped van that was stolen from outside the family's Franklin Square home on Tuesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A modified van belonging to a family with two disabled sons has been found a day after being reported stolen.

A Nassau County police spokeswoman said the van was found abandoned Wednesday at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Agnes Court in Franklin Square, about a mile and a half from the Franklin Square home of the Gasperetti family. The van is impounded as police search for evidence, and no arrests have been made.

“It’s amazing that they found it within 30 hours, that just doesn’t happen,” said Rob Gasperetti, a retired NYPD detective and father of four sons, two of whom have a rare genetic disorder.

The van was specially customized to accommodate his sons Brian, 20, and Dylan, 13, who cannot speak or walk due to Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, as well as the family’s other two children, Andrew, 15, and Trevor, 18, Gasperetti said.

He reported the modified Ford Econoline van missing after hearing the sound of an ignition starting at about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday and realizing shortly after that the vehicle was gone from the driveway.

The family had purchased the van in 2008 for $85,000. It included a raised roof, space for Brian’s and Dylan’s wheelchairs and a wheelchair lift. It also contained a prized collection of Brian’s and Dylan’s favorite DVDs and an $1,800 backup wheelchair.

The wheelchair and DVDs were left inside the vehicle and returned to the family, Gasperetti said, but police told him the van’s steering column was broken.

Still, Gasperetti said he’s happy to know his family will be getting the van back.

“We’re not destitute, but it would make life a lot easier,” he said.

In the meantime, the family has two other vehicles they can use to transport their sons, though it will require much more effort and coordination, he said. Brian and Dylan are at school during the week and travel by school bus, though Gasperetti said the family typically drives them to their wheelchair baseball team practice on Sundays.

“I’m just grateful to the people on Facebook that were looking for it and the Fifth Precinct,” Gasperetti said. “We saw the worst in people and the best in people in the same 24-hour period.”

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