May 15, 2024
Patrick Flanagan: Paralympic athlete 'gutted' after wheelchair was 'broken' on the way to Tokyo

Patrick Flanagan: Paralympic athlete ‘gutted’ after wheelchair was ‘broken’ on the way to Tokyo

The 23-year-old flew from Ireland to London to catch a connecting to Japan for the Games, which start on August 24.
However, he posted on Twitter that: “When the plane landed I was given my wheelchair back, except it was completely broken.”

In his tweet on Saturday explaining the situation, Flanagan included pictures which appeared to show the broken wheels.

“Ultimately the wheels have been damaged so much that they no longer spin, along with a lot of other dents and scrapes,” he wrote.

He explained that the staff at Heathrow were “extremely apologetic.” The official Heathrow account replied to Flanagan’s tweet saying: “We are sorry to hear that your 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 did their best to assist with your onward journey.”

Flanagan competes in the 100m  freestyle on day two of the Irish National Swimming Team Trials.

“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,” it continued. “Please do get in touch if we can be of any assistance with any future travel through Heathrow.”

However, Flanagan — who said “an apology does very little for” him — outlined the difficulties the replacement wheelchair he was given is providing.

“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 new 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 uses. It’s unacceptable. Both airlines and baggage handlers need to pay more 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 into the car and is extremely sturdy. It would not be damaged easily.

Flanagan will swim in the S6 100m backstroke and 400m freestyle for Team Ireland.

He posted an update later on Saturday saying that he was having a replacement chair flown out. “But not all wheelchair users are lucky enough to have a spare. The point remains the same, this should never happen!” he said.