Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Tim Meacock (left) and his husband Andrew Miller (right). Andrew’s car was parked in a Luton Airport car park when fire devastated it and claims the blaze has robbed him of his independence (Picture: PA)

A wheelchair user says his independence has been ‘completely taken away’ after his car was left trapped after the fire at Luton Airport car park.

The devastating blaze ripped through the Bedfordshire airport’s multi-story car park on October 10 while Andrew Miller, 56, was on holiday with his husband.

When the broadcaster from Northampton returned from Ireland two days later he found his bespoke vehicle was inside the severely damaged building.

His Citroen DS3 had been parked in the blue badge area on the ground floor of the building on October 8 before the couple took a trip to Ireland.

They returned to the airport four days later, and Mr Miller, who has a complex spinal condition and has always been a wheelchair user, said there was no-one from the airport or APCOA, its parking provider, to give him information on how to return home.

A Citroen DS 3 which is ‘bespoke’ to the access needs of Andrew Miller (Picture: PA)

Now almost two weeks later, he said his situation has not changed, with no information given about the state of his vehicle.

He claims his insurance company did instruct a car hire company to find him a courtesy vehicle, but they have been unable to do so.

Mr Miller isn’t the only driver to be left frustrated after the fire. Cath Glaze, who lost her car in the fire was told by her insurer that it was her fault.

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The gran returned from Portugal with husband Martyn to discover that their car was one of 1,500 that are unlikely to be salvageable after the fire and their insurer offered them just £7,00 for the £20,000 car.

He said: ‘I’ve had no courtesy car and no ability to get mobile, meanwhile I’ve had to pull out of attending in-person business meetings, I even missed a colleague’s funeral, as a consequence of not having my own car.

‘My partner has taken time out to accompany me to several events in Manchester and London last week.

‘For many disabled people, like me, personal independence is everything. You take away our cars, you take away our independence and our ability to lead our lives.

‘My independence has been completely taken away by this fire.’

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Hundreds of burnt out cars were left in the three-storey parking block after the fire(Picture: PA)

Mr Miller, a cultural consultant and disability campaigner said his insurance company got in touch to offer what he called a ‘derisory and frankly mean’ £100 in lieu of a courtesy car.

He said he has received the standard updates from the airport regarding the incident in general but has had no specific communication regarding his car or situation.

He has been tweeting the companies involved with no response.

He said: ‘It’s abundantly clear that the processes that have been put in place to support drivers involved in the Luton fire have not included any plans to support disabled people with bespoke needs.

Luton airport car park fire (Picture: Harpenden Fire Station)

‘It’s quite extraordinary how little support anyone has offered in this situation, I’ve basically been left to sort it all out myself.’

Mr Miller said that if he is forced to find a replacement car he will then have to get the hand controls fitted at a cost of £500 which can take a week to put in.

And he said the ongoing situation has seriously affected his life.

‘I can’t be spontaneous in anything that I’m doing,’ he said.

‘I’m very, very restricted. So if my doctor rings up and says, “we’ve arranged some antibiotics for you”, I can’t jump in my car and go and get them. I have to get my partner to go and do that for me.

‘That’s robbing me of mobility, it’s an independence that I would normally have.’

In response to Mr Miller’s claims, a spokesman for London Luton Airport had offered ‘sincere apologies’ for any distress or inconvenience caused.

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Neil Thompson, operations director at London Luton Airport, said: ‘We know this has been a distressing time and we have every sympathy with all those affected.

‘We have always been clear that most cars will be unsalvageable. From the outset, customers have been advised to contact their insurer and we have worked hard to provide all the required information so insurance companies can progress claims as quickly as possible.

‘We continue to provide our customers with regular updates, but as the car park remains unsafe, we are unable to provide information about individual vehicles. We are pleased to hear that many claims have already been settled.’

A spokesperson for APCOA said: ‘Due to the instability of the car park structure which was severely damaged by the fire, unfortunately we still don’t have access to it.

‘As a result, we have been unable to provide any customers with bespoke information about their individual vehicles.

‘APCOA and London Luton Airport have tried to keep all customers informed as the situation has evolved by sending regular email updates and publishing detailed information and guidance on our websites and social media.

‘All customers have been advised to contact their insurance company to progress a claim and the relevant information has been provided to the insurers to support that process.

‘We have every sympathy with all customers who have been affected by this major incident.’

Police said earlier this week that a man in his 30s was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage but was bailed following further inquiries.

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