Hundreds show support for Iowa couple injured in hot air balloon crash

MARTENSDALE, Iowa (KCCI) -People from nearby communities spent part of Saturday in Martensdale, showing up to support a couple injured in a hot air balloon accident over the summer, KCCI“, reports Kayla James.

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 is recovering from severe burns. The 13-year-old, who was also on the ride, reportedly suffered minor injuries.

As for the couple, KCCI spoke with Rich Wheeldon Thursday. 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 very grateful to everyone who is here,” said Nathan Wheeldon, son of Irene and Rich. “It’s just a testament to how many lives they’ve touched over the years.”

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.