SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Seven-year-old Nino Welcome loves cars. Most of all, he loves his grandpa's 1970 Mustang Mach 1.
Seven-year-old Nino Welcome loved his grandpa's 1970 Mustang Mach 1. Now it will have to be restored again.
Nino has Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, which affects his mobility and speech. He will likely never drive a car himself, but that doesn't stop him from going on rides. So, for Nino's seventh birthday in May, his grandpa fixed up the Mustang himself and gave it to his grandson as a present.
"It's easily his most prized possession in the world," said Nino's father, Brett. "He loves it more than anything, except for his family."
Nino nicknamed the orange car "the pumpkin" and, because of the Mustang, orange became Nino's favorite color. His wheelchair (nicknamed Mach 2) and walker are orange, and he goes to bed at night listening to stories about the adventures in which he would go in his car.
"He talked about it every day," Brett said. "If he would meet a stranger, he would introduce himself and then tell them that he has a 1970 Mustang Mach One. That was almost how he defined himself."
Early Thursday, Nino's prized possession went up in smoke. Someone put fireworks inside, lit them, and set the car on fire.
A neighbor heard the crackling around 3:45 a.m. and called 9-1-1 when he saw flames. Brett tried to hurry to save the car but the flames spread quickly.
"By the time I was able to get some water, it had already gotten to all the plastic, the interior, all the combustibles and it became just an inferno," he said.
The fire department arrived quickly, but the car was torched. Glass is shattered all over the driveway and little remains of the car seat that sat inside.
Nino's family thinks someone smashed the passenger side window to get in, and lit the fireworks there. Normally, the car is parked inside the garage, but a recent garage sale meant the car was on the drive.
"The car can be replaced, but his feelings for it -- it's like his whole life," said Nino's mom, Tonia.
"Not sure how we're going to tell him," Brett said later Thursday morning.
The Welcomes don't have any idea if the car was targeted, or if this incident was random. But they do know they'll do everything they can to get Nino's dream car pieced back together again.
With some luck, the engine or possibly the frame can be salvaged.
"Vandalism and things like that aren't random to the people it impacts," Brett said. "It might be funny to throw fireworks into somebody's vehicle but, when you destroy the happiness and the very thing that a disabled 7-year-old boy loves, it's wicked. It's disgusting."
The Welcomes ask anyone who saw or heard anything around 3:45 a.m. Thursday to call the police. The incident happened in the Eastgate Avenue area in east Springfield, between Cherry and Sunshine streets.
Someone set up a Go Fund Me account to help the family restore the car. It's address is https://www.gofundme.com/ninosmach1