An Irish Paralympian has had to secure a replacement wheelchair after his was badly damaged in transit on his journey to Tokyo.
Para-swimmer Patrick Flanagan said he was “gutted” to discover his wheelchair had been “destroyed” en route from Ireland to Heathrow on the first leg of his trip to the Paralympics in Japan.
The athlete from Longford said the wheels had been damaged and the frame of the chair had sustained a lot of other dents and scrapes.
“My chair was destroyed,” he wrote on Twitter.
“My chair is my independence and to be left in an over-sized airport chair is degrading.”
He added: “The staff in Heathrow were extremely apologetic. But unfortunately an apology does very little for me.
“I was given an over-sized airport wheelchair, filled out a claim form and sent on my way. I can barely push myself in this chair and simple tasks like getting around my hotel room are extremely tough. And now I have to fly to Tokyo.
“This is not something that can happen to wheelchair users. It’s unacceptable. Both airlines and baggage handlers need to pay attention to chairs.
“My chair is my independence and takes months to be fitted and ordered. Mine is specifically sized to support my back, is lightweight so I can lift it in to the car, and is extremely sturdy. It would not be damaged easily.
“I’m gutted to have to start out my Paralympic journey like this but I just can’t wait to get to Japan, join up with the rest of the team and put on a performance to be proud of.”
Flanagan later posted that he was getting a spare chair flown out.
“Thanks to everyone for reaching out this morning,” he wrote on Saturday. “Luckily I’m getting an older chair flown out today. But not all wheelchair users are lucky enough to have a spare. The point remains the same, this should never happen!"