A wheelchair user says he has been robbed of his independence after he lost his car to a huge fire which may have written off 1,000 others in an airport car park.
Andrew Miller, 56, parked his automatic Citroen DS 3 on the ground floor of Luton Airport’s Terminal Car Park 2 in the blue badge parking zone on 8 October, before taking a trip to Ireland.
He and his husband Tim Meacock, also 56, returned to the airport on Thursday afternoon, and said there was no one from the airport or APCOA, its parking provider, to give him information on how to return home.
Mr Miller, a broadcaster, cultural consultant and disability campaigner from Northamptonshire, said the situation had been a “nightmare” and accused the airport and APCOA of “corporate cowardice and negligence of the worst kind”.
It comes as Luton Airport said on Sunday it was “unlikely that any vehicles will be salvageable” following the car fire which broke out on Tuesday, causing the site to collapse.
Mr Miller, who has a complex spinal condition and has always been a wheelchair user, said he could see his vehicle from the car park appearing to be “relatively undamaged”, and he was concerned the airport could be “rushing to conclusions”.
In response to Mr Miller’s situation, a spokesperson for London Luton Airport offered “sincere apologies” for any distress or inconvenience caused.
“This fire has robbed me of my access and my independence,” Mr Miller said.
“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.”
Mr Miller said he bought his automatic Citroen DS 3 outright two weeks ago after leasing the vehicle for five years from Motability, an organisation which supports disabled drivers.
The vehicle model is no longer in production, going off-sale in 2019. Mr Miller added: “It’s quite bespoke and precious to me and it really is my independence.”
He said the vehicle, a three-door car without a central console, is “much easier” for a wheelchair user to get in and out of independently, adding: “It’s going to be very difficult for me to find another one; not impossible, but very difficult.”
He has also fitted hand controls to the vehicle, explaining they are connected to the brake and accelerator to allow someone without the use of their legs to operate the car, adding they would cost about £500 to replace.
Mr Miller said he wrote to APCOA twice, as well as posting on X, formerly Twitter, to ask Luton Airport for information on how he could return home on his arrival at the airport, but had no response.
Mr Miller said when he landed at the airport he was assisted by the chaplain, who is part of the support service and available to assist those in difficulty and was “exceptionally kind and patient” and helped arrange a taxi for the couple to return home.
“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.”
Of Luton Airport’s statement on Sunday, Mr Miller said he was “concerned they (the airport) might be rushing to conclusions if cars like mine are potentially salvageable”.
“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,” he said.
Mr Miller hopes he will be able to get a replacement vehicle from his insurer from Tuesday.
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.”
The airport added it had been "an extremely distressing time" and thanked customers for their patience.
“Our team have been tirelessly working around the clock to keep customers informed of developments.
“Given the scale of the damage, it is unlikely that any vehicles in the car park will be salvageable.
“However, this is still in the process of being assessed.
“We are also working with the Association of British Insurers on behalf of the many insurance companies to establish whether it will be possible to safely retrieve any personal possessions and, if so, how this process may work.”
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