Paralyzed Nampa native left without wheelchair after rough landing

Posted at 8:06 PM, Jun 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-16 17:58:08-04

NEWARK, New Jersey — A paralyzed Nampa native is in a hospital in Newark, New Jersey tonight after a rough landing at the airport Saturday left him stranded without his wheelchair.

Rio Peterson boarded a United flight to Newark for medical treatment early Saturday morning in Denver. From take-off to descent, Peterson said everything was smooth sailing--until it wasn't.

"Looking at the plane when we were evacuated from it, the wheel wells around the landing gear was smashed in pretty good, and the wing was detaching from the body as well," Peterson said.

Peterson said a "harsh and frightful" landing caused the plane to skid off the runway, leaving the plane damaged and only a few hundred feet from oncoming traffic on the interstate.

"It was beyond scary," Peterson said. "It was more than fearful like, I kind of just turned off and it was so out of control there's like no stopping this."

The accident caused Peterson to be carried from the plane on a stretcher and landed him in a Newark hospital without his medications--and without his wheelchair.

Peterson was left paralyzed from the shoulders down after a skiing accident.

"It was April of last year, (I was) working in Reno, and broke my neck skiing at Squaw Valley," Peterson said. "I'm a C5 quadriplegic. So I've got movement of my shoulders and my biceps and my right wrist."

After the skiing accident, Peterson moved to Denver for medical rehabilitation. He was heading to Newark for a stem cell treatment in hopes of some increased strength and more regular blood pressure.

"Some patients are seeing voluntary muscle movement return. I hope for that, but it's not my expectation," Peterson said.

Peterson's wheelchair is still on board the damaged plane, but he tells 6 On Your Side United Airline's top priority is getting him his mobility back.