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Family searches for answers after man in wheelchair falls off Billings Rims

Posted at 5:25 PM, Feb 26, 2024

BILLINGS — One Lame Deer man is recovering after falling backward off the Billings Rims in a wheelchair, but his family suspects there's more to the situation than meets the eye. They're hoping for answers from the community while Nathaniel Whiteman recuperates in the hospital.

“He never really goes to the Rims. He usually hangs around downtown, or the Heights, or the West End,” said his mother, Rynalea Whiteman Pena, over Zoom on Monday.

It's a mystery Pena's family has been trying to solve since Friday night.

“AMR brought him in about 9 p.m., and (a Billings police officer), I guess he was one of the ones on scene, said that he had fallen off the Rims backwards,” Pena said.

Nathaniel Whiteman

Whiteman, 45, was rushed to Billings Clinic with 11 broken ribs, both collar bones broken, and a break in his spine.

“I just talked to him, he said mom, my life was spared. Whoever did this to me was trying to kill me,” said Pena.

Whiteman's now out of the ICU and is in stable condition, but he doesn't remember much about what happened. He told his mother he can only recall that he'd been drinking and remembers a man and woman he didn't know "hanging around him."

“Whatever happened at that point, he says he doesn’t remember,” Pena added.

Billings Police Lt. Matt Lennick said police have not seen anything in the responding officer's initial report to indicate Whiteman was pushed. Pena said she plans to file an official police report Tuesday.

It makes getting to the bottom of the situation even more critical for the family because Whiteman uses a wheelchair.

"Last year he got his leg amputated, so that really put him behind in a lot of things,” said Pena.

Pena admits this is just a part of a hard hand her son has been dealt in life.

Rynalea Whiteman Pena

“At this present time, he’s homeless and struggling with alcohol, of course, addiction,” Pena said.

It's left her and her family with the worst feeling, the feeling of not knowing.

“One thing I want to know is who called 911. Who knew that he was off the Rims," asked Pena.

She's hoping for the community's help with any information about what happened on Friday night.

“If anyone’s seen something or if there was any, or give any kind of information. Because there could be somebody else that this could happen to,” Pena added.

You can reach Pena at (406) 720-3095.