Teen ‘robbed of independence’ after custom wheelchair is crushed at airport

A disabled teenager’s summer holidays have been ‘ruined’ after his custom made wheelchair was crushed beyond repair at Bristol Airport.

Lewis Llorca, 16, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair specifically made to his measurements to get around – costing around £3,685 to make.

But his mum said he has now been stripped on of his independence and had his summer holidays and end of year prom ruined.

Lewis, from Wells, was returning from a family holiday when the wheelchair – designed to be lighter and improve his posture – was crushed under the ambulift.

An ambulift is the vehicle which raises and lowers people off the aircraft who can’t use the stairs.

His mum Tracey told Somerset Live : "The baggage handlers had unloaded his wheelchair onto the tarmac and not put the brakes on, resulting in it rolling underneath the raised ambulift vehicle, which was subsequently lowered onto the chair.

"The ambulift operator just said it wasn’t their job to check if there is anything underneath.

"We had to remain in the hot ambulift, along with five or six other passengers, for over half an hour whilst all the relevant companies tried to decide whose fault it was.

"Lewis was devastated that he had to be wheeled through the airport in one of the airport’s wheelchairs – unavoidable, but not great for a 16-year-old, who waited years to be independent in his own snazzy one.

"He didn’t have his chair for school prom and has had to manage the entire summer holidays so far without.

"Lewis had his summer holidays ruined by not being to get around independently and has been worrying that his replacement chair wouldn’t be ready in time to start 6th form as a new chair takes 10 to 12 weeks to build and costs £3,685.

"We have travelled quite a bit. We always have to tell the baggage handlers to be careful as we have seen how the wheelchairs get chucked about and didn’t want it scratched.

"Obviously we never thought about it getting crushed."

When Mrs Llorca’s claim was not answered after almost two months, despite claiming she had sent in all the required paperwork, she took her frustration to social media.

In a Facebook post she explained what happened and posted pictures of the wheelchair.

She said: "I was so fed up with it going round in circles and not getting anywhere that I wrote my Facebook post.

"The post was shared so many times (now 2.3k) that suddenly TUI were ringing me.

"They offered to pay the full sum of the wheelchair. They said apparently these things ‘don’t usually take so long to resolve’."

A spokesman for TUI said: "We are sorry to hear of the Llorca family’s experience on their return to Bristol Airport.

"We can confirm we have been in direct contact with Mrs Llorca to personally apologise and to explain that we have fully reimbursed any costs to replace her son’s wheelchair.

"We have also offered a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience caused."

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