Santee Plane Crash Victims Feel ‘Overwhelming' Support From Fast Food Fundraiser

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Thousands came to the Wendy's on Mission Gorge Road in Santee Tuesday to order a meal in support of the two families who lost their homes in the plane crash two weeks ago.

The drive-thru line was wrapped around the block the entire day, and foot traffic made it look like the burger joint was giving meals away for free. Most customers said they didn’t know the Campbell or Morris families, they just heard about the fundraising event on social media and knew they needed to come and support.

People like Geri Osban said they were happy to wait in line.

“I really feel bad for the families. We’re just here to support them. It’s all we can do,” Osban said.

Thanks to Wendy’s franchise owner Brian Spahnberg and his staff, that’s what thousands came to do.

The Wendy's on Mission Gorge Road in Santee is donating 100% of its sales Tuesday to the two families who lost their homes in the Santee plane crash, reports NBC 7's Allie Raffa

“It's been just tremendous and so much busier than we normally are,” Spahnberg said.

After donating food to first responders the day of the devasting plane crash that killed the plane’s pilot, Dr. Sugata Das, and UPS driver Steve Krueger, his team wanted to do more.

“All day long until 10 p.m. tonight, we'll be donating 100% of all purchases to the families,” Spahnberg said.

The Campbells weren’t home at the time of the crash but still lost close to everything.

“The support is just -- I don’t know where we’d be without it, to be honest,” Courtney Campbell said.

Newlyweds Cody and Courtney Campbell say they hope to rebuild their home but they know the process will be a long one.

Speaking from her hospital bed, Maria Morris found the strength to thank her neighbors for rescuing her from her burning Santee home after a plane crashed into it last week.

“Every time we go back to the house, it's just as hard as it was the first day,” she said.

Weeks later, they’re still struggling to find a rental home in the area, but they say the extra-large order of help they’re receiving from the community has given them a newfound sense of hope.

‘The fact that unsolicited, people are just offering their help in any capacity. There's not any words that we can use to express how grateful we are. We’re just so appreciative,” Courtney Campbell said.

As for Phil and Maria Morris, they’re still in the hospital recovering from second and third-degree burns. Their son Jim Slaff-Gruel said the support at the fundraiser was overwhelming.

“It's overwhelming to see this many people coming out to support, you know? Not only my mom and stepdad, but Cody and Courtney and their family, and then on top of that, to walk into the Wendy's itself and see the line wrap around and people are waiting 45 minutes in there and up to an hour or so in their in their cars just to help support our families,” Slaff-Gruel said.

Maria Morris is no longer in the ICU, according to Slaff-Gruel. She even asked him to bring her back a cheeseburger. But Phil is expected to be there for another two months.

“He has been on a ventilator for two and a half weeks now,” Slaff-Gruel said. “He is fighting and he's definitely a strong man, but it's going to be a while, you know. He did suffer second and third-degree burns on about 30% of his body. So that's, you know, that coupled with age and a couple other factors, you know, makes recovery a lot slower.”

The family is hopeful Phil will have a speedy recovery, and days like this help them feel supported through a difficult time.

“From the bottom of our hearts, as a family, thank you so much,” Slaff-Gruel said. “We're kind of on our own little island but without the support, we'd be, you know, just hanging out there by ourselves.”

Spahnberg said his restaurant raised around $21,000 for the two families. He decided to stay open past the 10 p.m. closing time so more people could donate.

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