Hundreds rally for Iowa couple injured in hot air balloon crash over summer

Residents of nearby communities spent part of Saturday in Martensdale, showing up to support a couple who were injured in a hot air balloon accident over the summer. Last July, a hot air balloon crashed into a power line and caught fire. Four people were in the basket: a couple, the pilot and a 13-year-old boy. The pilot suffered severe burns. He recovers. The 13-year-old, who was also on the ride, reportedly suffered minor injuries. As for the couple, KCCI spoke with Rich Wheeldon on Thursday. Rich shared how he and his wife were doing. Rich suffered burns to his hands, arms, back and head. His wife, Irene, suffered burns to her face, arms and legs. On Saturday, the couple were in Martsendale for an organized fundraiser to help them cover out-of-pocket medical expenses. Within five hours, hundreds of people filled the city’s high school parking lot. The area had been transformed for fundraising and was filled with games, a balloon house, a dunk tank, raffle prizes, tents and more. “We are so grateful to everyone who is here,” said Irene and Rich’s son Nathan Wheeldon. “It’s just a testament to how many lives they’ve touched over the years.” Another testimonial was the line of people waiting to speak with Irene and Rich. “It’s amazing to look here and think that all these people know us in some way,” Irene said. Family and friends organized the fundraiser. The couple went home for a while after spending time in hospital following the accident. However, they still need to undergo physical therapy. “It’s just a lot of stretching, trying to get our mobility back,” Irene said. “To not lose that movement, you have to keep stretching it,” Rich said. The Wheeldon family said it best: what happened has happened and it’s time to move on. It’s something the couple say they couldn’t do without friends and family helping them along the way. “It’s so overwhelming,” Rich said. “We can never say thank you enough.”

Residents of nearby communities spent part of Saturday in Martensdale, showing up to support a couple who were injured in a hot air balloon accident over the summer.

Last July, a hot air balloon crashed into a power line and caught fire. Four people were in the basket: a couple, the pilotand a 13 year old boy.

The pilot suffered severe burns. He recovers.

The 13-year-old, who was also on the ride, reportedly suffered minor injuries.

As for the couple, KCCI spoke with Rich Wheeldon on Thursday. Rich shared how he and his wife were doing.

Rich suffered burns to his hands, arms, back and head. His wife, Irene, was burned in the face, arms and legs.

On Saturday, the couple were in Martsendale for an organized fundraiser to help cover their medical costs. Within five hours, hundreds of people filled the city’s high school parking lot. The area had been transformed for fundraising and was filled with games, a balloon house, a dunk tank, raffle prizes, tents and more.

“We are so grateful to everyone who is here,” said Irene and Rich’s son Nathan Wheeldon. “It’s just a testament to how many lives they’ve touched over the years.”

Another testimonial was the line of people waiting to speak with Irene and Rich.

“It’s amazing to look around and think that all of these people know us in some way,” Irene said.

Family and friends organized the fundraiser.

The couple went home for a while after spending time in hospital following the accident. However, they still need to undergo physical therapy.

“It’s just a lot of stretching, trying to regain our mobility,” Irene said.

“For us to not lose this movement, you have to keep stretching it,” Rich said.

The Wheeldon family said it best: what happened has happened and it’s time to move on.

It’s something the couple say they couldn’t do without friends and family helping them along the way.

“It’s so overwhelming,” Rich said. “We can never say thank you enough.”