Andrew Miller’s car was one of up to 1,500 in the car park at the time of the blaze (Picture: PA/Harpenden Fire Station)
A wheelchair user whose ‘bespoke’ vehicle was in Luton Airport’s car park during a devastating fire last week says he has been ‘robbed’ of his independence.
Andrew Miller, 59, says his Citroen DS3 may be undamaged despite the structure collapsing due to the extent of Tuesday’s ferocious blaze – and the airport saying it was ‘unlikely’ that any cars were ‘salvageable’.
However, he said he received no response from either the airport or car park operator APCOA when he asked how he might be able to get home after his holiday.
Andrew had left the car – which is specifically tailored to his needs – on the ground floor of Terminal Car Park 2 before flying to Ireland with his husband Tim Meacock.
The broadcaster and disability campaigner, who has a complex spinal condition, returned to find the destruction on Thursday afternoon.
He said: ‘This fire has robbed me of my access and my independence.
‘As a wheelchair user, I’ve got complex access needs and I’ve spent years looking for a car that I can easily get in and out of.’
The Citroen has no central console, making it easier for a wheelchair user to access independently, and fitted hand controls worth around £500 which allow it to be driven by someone without the use of their legs.
It was parked in the blue badge zone of the facility, away from the section that collapsed, and Andrew said he was concerned the airport may have been ‘rushing to conclusions’ when it said the vehicles may be unsalvageable.
He said: ‘Who knows what damage it might have sustained, I’ve got no idea what the vehicle looks like up close, but from a distance, it encouraged me that it wasn’t in the collapsed part of the car park.’
Andrew Miller and his husband Tim Meacock were on holiday together in Ireland when the fire struck (Picture: Andrew Miller/PA)
Upon his return, he said he wrote to APCOA twice and posted on social media to ask how he might be get home from the airport – but didn’t hear anything back.
‘In my view, it was corporate cowardice and negligence of the worst kind,’ he said.
‘The whole thing has been a nightmare and proves to me that in a major incident situation like this, the interests of disabled people who need carefully considered bespoke solutions get tossed aside and ignored.’
An ‘exceptionally kind and patient’ airport chaplain helped to arrange a taxi for the couple, allowing them to get home.
Andrew said he hopes to be able to get a replacement car from his insurer tomorrow.
The intensity of the fire caused the brand-new structure to partially collapse (Picture: PA)
A London Luton Airport spokesperson said: ‘We would like to offer our sincere apologies to Mr Miller for any distress or inconvenience caused.
‘We understand how upsetting this situation is and have been working tirelessly to provide more information to our customers as quickly as possible.
‘Since Tuesday evening, together with APCOA parking, we have responded to almost 16,500 customer queries.
‘Dealing with such a large volume of inquiries, while an investigation is ongoing, has naturally extended our response times.
‘The airport chaplaincy team are part of the airport response to major incidents and are equipped to provide support and assistance.
‘We are delighted they were able to arrange alternative transport for Mr Miller on this occasion.’
They added: ‘We recognise this has been an extremely distressing time for all concerned and we would like to thank our customers for their ongoing patience and understanding while we work through the many complexities following this incident.’
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‘The whole thing proves to me that, in a major incident, the interests of disabled people get tossed aside.’