On Campus

UBC engineering prank ends with arrests, sunken car

Police catch group "red-handed" on bridge; Volkswagen Beetle plunges into icy inlet

Five University of British Columbia university engineering students were arrested Monday trying to lower a Volkswagen Beetle off the bridge that spans Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet.Vancouver police say they caught the group “red-handed” on the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge.

The appearance of the Volkswagen shell in some unheard-of places has become the annual kick-off to Engineering Week at UBC.

Previously the Beetles have been placed on the top of tall buildings and suspended from bridges, but the engineers’ most notorious feat came when students hung a bug off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, generating international media attention.

But this year, it seems, the would-be pranksters should have waited to get a few more classes under their belts.

“It appears they ran into – pardon the pun – a bit of a snag,” said Vancouver police spokesman Const. Lindsey Houghton, as he explained what officers saw when they came upon the group on the bridge early Monday morning.

Houghton said the equipment the students had been using either wasn’t strong enough or they had trouble with the cables or ropes they were using.

“The shell of the vehicle plunged into the Burrard Inlet.”

The arrests Monday mark the first time anyone has been caught in connection with the prank.

Bruce Dunwoody, associate dean of engineering programs at UBC, admits he doesn’t like answering the phone on the first Monday of February.

“I’m relieved this time every year when, so far, nobody’s been hurt,” Dunwoody said.

“I don’t like to call it a prank, because prank sort of implies wholesome fun and not having negative consequences, which certainly doesn’t apply here.”

The five students may face discipline from the university, but Dunwoody said that will be up to the university’s president advisory committee on student discipline.

Houghton said police are recommending charges of mischief over $5,000.

Given the engineers’ record of feats, Houghton said no one would argue with their ingenuity and creativity.

“We would much prefer they utilize their knowledge and experience and harness that creativity for other means rather than pulling pranks or stunts like this,” Houghton said.

The university has been trying to discourage the students hijinks.

Dunwoody pointed out that a few years ago, students engineered a sculpture of 6,400 cans of food and the proceeds later went to the food bank.

In another year, students placed a giant version of the UBC engineers coat on the stone Inukshuk standing in Vancouver’s English Bay and stuffed it with clothing that was later donated to charity.

Dunwoody doesn’t know why the engineers use the Volkswagens.

He said he thinks it may have come from class experiments with the Beetles, such as trying to figure out how many students could fit into a Bug.

– The Canadian Press