WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — After weeks of agony a disabled Long Island man finally has his state-of-the-art wheelchair back. It was stolen and vandalized by teenage pranksters.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, the chair was found and fixed for Wednesday’s big return.
“I got my life back,” Vinny Pinello said.
Six months stranded on a broken, ill-fitting manual wheelchair, Pinello was filled with joy on Wednesday. His stolen, $17,000 motorized wheelchair was finally fixed, fitted and flying across the floor.
“Thanks to you Channel 2 for getting it back to me,” Pinello said.
CBS 2’s McLogan had been followed the criminal case since the onset — when two 14-year-old Roslyn neighbors of the Pinello’s were arrested for breaking into the home, which had been undergoing Hurricane Sandy renovation and being made handicapped-accessible.
Pinello’s wheelchair was spotted and, police said, on a dare the youths nabbed it and sped away on a joyride until the batteries died. They then dumped it in bushes, never apologized and bragged about it on Facebook.
“It wasn’t a prank; it was a hate crime. They took away my independence,” Pinello said.
Vinny’s mom, Carmela, was forced to move him, and push him, until her back went out.
“It hurts that they did that to him. His life … he went through so much,” his mother said.
Earlier this week CBS 2 again broadcasted Vinny’s plight and companies responded — shipping the expensive missing parts to United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau, where Vinny attends classes.
“It cost a lot of money,” Pinello said.
“The technicians donated the parts so that we could repair Vinny’s chair. It means a lot. It was a very unfortunate situation that someone would steal a person with disabilities’ wheelchair,” said Gail Ferrentino-Walsh of United Cerebral Palsy.
Vinny was suffering rashes rubbing his arms and legs on the old ill-fitting chair, but now things are decidedly different.
“Independence and legs taken away … I need my chair to get back to life as it was,” he said.
The teen suspects face misdemeanor and felony charges. They could be sentenced to detention or community service, volunteering with the disabled.
The suspects’ next date with a family court judge is on Thursday.
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