WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – A Woonsocket man who uses a wheelchair to get around was shocked to find that someone apparently stole it this week.
Michael Martinelli has used a wheelchair since an accident 20 years ago left him a paraplegic. But that didn’t stop him from being active – the trophies and plaques he’s won in nearly two decades of wheelchair racing attest to that.
Wednesday, he pulled into his parking spot outside his apartment and his wheelchair, which he’d left by the spot, was gone. He was stuck in his car for an hour until his daughter could come over and help.
“There’s no way for me to have gotten out of that car until someone actually brought me my spare wheelchair, because there’s no way for me to get from one place to another without this apparatus,” he said.
As far as the 20 year-old spare wheelchair, Martinelli says it’s a stopgap solution.
“It’s a little rickety, you know. It’s worn. It’s seen better days.”
Getting a new chair became an immediate priority. Worried that his health insurance won’t cover the cost of replacing the chair, which Martinelli had specially modified with lightweight materials, his daughter started a GoFundMe page to finance a new one.
Martinelli said that if the person who took the chair genuinely needs it, he’s glad they have it. But he’ll also be glad to get back into a chair that isn’t 20 years old.
Woonsocket Police confirmed that a report on the theft was filed and they are investigating.