Belfast airport turns away wheelchair user after deeming repair kit a security risk

Belfast airport turns away wheelchair user after deeming repair kit a security risk

A DISABLED MAN was forbidden from boarding his flight at Belfast International Airport after the repair kit for his wheelchair was deemed a security risk.

48-year-old Steve Smithers was getting a flight to visit his sick father in Essex when he was told he wouldn’t be left on his flight because the repair kit he was carrying for his wheelchair was a security risk.

Mr Smithers, who is paralysed from the chest down after a motorbike accident, was told by staff at the airport that the spanners included in his kit could be used to “dismantle the plane”.

His 76-year-old father Joe is about to start treatment for cancer, and Mr Smithers has now had to postpone his trip to visit him, although he said he no longer wants to fly.

“When I booked this trip, all I wanted to do was to get to see my seriously-ill father,” he told BBC News.

“I have travelled extensively over the 11 years I have been paralysed and there have never been any problems preventing me from doing so independently.

“I just wanted someone to listen to me.”

The security gate supervisor told him that he would have to put his bag with the tool kit - which also contained his catheter and diabetes medication - in the hold.

But, he said, the security supervisor also told him if he put his bag in the hold he would not have time to make it back through security in time for his flight.

Mr Smithers said when he suggested he could give the spanners to the cabin crew until landing, security said this was also not possible.

His partner Lisa Clydesdale, 39, said he was "literally in tears".

Belfast International Airport has since apologised to Mr Smithers and his partner, and have donated money to a charity of his choice after he refused an offer of compensation.

"For disabled people it is not about asking for special treatment, but simply wanting the opportunity to live life as unimpaired by our disabilities as is possible, and to be allowed to do so with dignity," said Mr Smithers.

"On this occasion, it was particularly pertinent for me as this was the last opportunity I would have to see my father before he starts chemotherapy but no disabled person should have to experience this, regardless of the circumstances for their trip."