Friends use Special Olympics medals to honor explosion victims

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Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:29 PM EDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Charlie and Martina Hite were a married couple who competed together in the Special Olympics for years. Friends say the medals they earned meant a lot to them.

After the two died in the explosion on North Weinbach Avenue, their friends are making sure they still get their medals.

[Previous Story: Family mourns and remembers married couple killed in Weinbach explosion]

Tami Kellems lives near Charlie and Martina’s house on North Weinbach. She said she remembers the exact moment the house exploded.

“The house shook, and a big, loud ‘boom,’” said Tami. “We thought we were shot or something, I mean my son started screaming. And then when we heard the 1000 block of North Weinbach, my son started freaking out.”

Both of Tami’s kids have been friends with Charlie and Martina Hite since they were teenagers. Tami says her son and Charlie were like brothers.

Charlie and Martina, as well as Tami’s kids, have competed in the Special Olympics for years. Charlie and Martina together played softball, basketball and bowling.

Tami is on the board of the Vanderburgh County Special Olympics, and says a lot of Special Olympics athletes, as well as coaches, have been struggling with the death of the Hites. She says it’s been hard to talk about, even with her own kids.

“That’s one of the questions, my son was like, ‘did they suffer?’” said Tami. “And I don’t know for sure but I went ahead and told him no, because I pray that they didn’t.”

Tami says Charlie and Martina were proud of the medals they earned, sometimes even wearing them to work.

Tami says when her son realized the Hites’ belongings were all destroyed, he decided to give up some of his own medals. Tami says he’s hoping they give them to Charlie and Martina’s family before their funeral.

“He knows what they meant to Charlie and Martina and he wanted the family, hopefully that they’ll be buried with them or the family can keep them,” said Tami.

Tami says Charlie and Martina had been married since 2016, but their relationship wasn’t perfect. One consistent source of bickering was Charlie being an Indiana fan, and Martina cheering for Kentucky.

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