Paralympian left “gutted” after wheelchair destroyed en route to Tokyo 2020

Irish Para-swimmer Patrick Flanagan has hit out at Heathrow Airport after posting pictures of his destroyed wheelchair on a flight from Dublin to London on his way to Tokyo

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Patrick Flanagan has been left “gutted” after his wheelchair was destroyed on his way to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

The games will start on August 24 and it will be the second time the Japanese capital has hosted the competition.

During the tournament, 22 sports will go ahead including new inclusions badminton and taekwondo.

But Flanagan faces a race against time to be ready after his wheelchair was rendered unusable following a flight from Dublin to Heathrow.

The Irish Para-swimmer was left devastated when he found out about the damage on the short trip between airports before travelling on to Tokyo.

“I was given my wheelchair back except it was completely broken,” the 23-year-old.

“This is not something that can happen to wheelchair users. It’s unacceptable.”

Heathrow Airport have apologised and revealed they will investigate the circumstances but Flanagan has insisted that it is too late to say sorry.

“The wheels have been damaged so much that they no longer spin, along with a lot of other dents and scrapes. The staff in Heathrow were extremely apologetic but unfortunately an apology does very little for me.

“I was given an oversized airport wheelchair, filled out a claim form and sent on my way. I can barely push myself in this new chair and simple tasks like getting around my hotel room are extremely tough. And now I have to fly to Tokyo.”

Flanagan’s wheelchair has been custom-made to support his back and spoke later to inform fans that he is getting an older chair flown over.

Patrick Flanagan is taking part in his first Paralympics

He said: “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.”

The Longford man later tweeted: “Thanks to everyone for reaching out this morning. 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!”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear that Mr Flangan’s wheelchair was damaged in transit to Heathrow and understand how distressing this would have been.

“Once our teams were made aware of what had happened on arrival into Heathrow, they were able to provide Mr Flanagan with a standard airport wheelchair so he could continue his journey.

“We will work with the airline and the origin airport as a priority to investigate how the damage occurred and how it can be avoided in the future.

“At Heathrow, we are determined to provide a welcoming and accessible airport that ensures all passengers can travel in the way they choose with the dignity and care they expect, and we will be in touch with Mr Flanagan to ensure his future journey through Heathrow is as smooth as possible.”

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