A paralympian visiting family in
Bethel made a heartbreaking discovery over the weekend.
Phoenix native Erik Hightower had
his custom racing wheelchair stolen from the parking lot of an area
hospital. He says his $5,000 chair was stolen from his cousin's truck
while it was parked at Anderson Hospital in Anderson Township.
Now, he's just trying to get back
what's so near and dear to his heart.
Hightower was born with spina
bifida, and took a liking to wheelchair racing 20 years ago.
"I'm a paralympic wheelchair
racer. We have events all over the U.S., all over the world," said
Just a few days ago, the Phoenix
native finished his last, and one of his most special races, of the season in
Indianapolis. He posted a time that is now an American record in the 100-meter
race. He did it in his brand new, custom wheelchair.
"I want to keep
racing. I just broke a record. I want to break more records.
Without my chair, I can't do that," said Hightower.
That's because his chair was
stolen from his cousin's vehicle while parked at a local hospital.
"They were there for maybe
an hour. They came back out, and they told us the chair was gone,"
Hightower told FOX19.
The chair is custom with an
aluminum body and carbon fiber wheels built just for Hightower.
"To me, it cost me $5,000 to
get it. But, to anybody else, it really has no value," said Hightower.
At 28-years old, he's raced all
over the world, including the paralympic games in Beijing in 2008. Though
his season is over, losing his wheelchair is jeopardizing his dreams.
"Hopefully it won't set me
back too long. The top guys in the world, they're training every
day. I need to be out there training every day so the next Paralympic
Games in 2016, I can beat all these top guys," Hightower told FOX19.
To do that, he's asking for one
"I don't want to press charges
or anything. I just want my chair back," he said.
Hightower got hooked on racing 20
years ago. He's currently training at an Olympic training center in San
Diego. His race schedule next year includes competition in Toronto and
Hightower has raced just twice
with his new chair, and is still working to pay it off. If he doesn't get
it back, he'll have to find $5,000 more to buy another.
He has since filed a report with
the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.
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