EXCLUSIVE: ‘Terrified’ widow, 92, with mobility issues blasts ‘shocking’ chaos at Gatwick airport after she was locked into a side room then climbed out of her wheelchair and crawled up a flight of stairs to get help
- Jean Curran, 92, says she felt helpless in ‘shocking’ chaos at Gatwick Airport
- She says she was locked in a side room and felt abandoned by assistance staff
- Mrs Curran says she was left hammering on a window in tears and shouting for
- The distraught grandmother climbed out of wheelchair and crawled onto stairs
A frail, 92-year-old widow has condemned the chaos at Gatwick Airport after she says she was locked into a side room and felt abandoned by special assistance staff sent to collect her from a plane.
Jean Curran says she was left hammering on a window in tears and shouting for help after being left marooned.
Eventually the ‘terrified’ grandmother, who has mobility problems and walks with a stick, climbed out of her wheelchair and crawled halfway up a flight of stairs in a desperate bid to attract attention.
She says she was left in ‘shaken, shocked and in tears’ and described her ordeal as ‘the worst moment of my whole life.’
Last night her family were demanding answers from Gatwick Airport for their ‘catastrophic failures.’
Jean Curran says she was left hammering on a window in tears and shouting for help after being left marooned
Mrs Curran, of Forest Row, East Sussex had travelled to Madrid with her family for her grandson’s wedding.
The family was returning into Gatwick on a Boeing 737-800 Air Europa plane, Flight UX1015, landing at 16.25 on Tuesday [June 14].
Her family disembarked as she waited for the special assistance staff to arrive with a wheelchair.
Mrs Curran was then taken out of the aircraft and pushed down the passenger airbridge and into a long narrow room with glass doors at either end which could only be entered with a security pass.
Mrs Curran said: ‘The man said: ‘I’m going to leave you here for a moment but someone will be along shortly to collect you.’ He then went off and I was left waiting on my own.
‘As the minutes ticked by I started to become really worried they might have forgotten about me. You couldn’t hear a sound in there, not a word or a footstep. I didn’t even know where I was and it was just deathly silent’
She said: ‘It was absolutely terrifying because I was just locked inside this corridor with nowhere to go.
‘I was very worried because I couldn’t hear a sound. It was completely silent. I could see baggage handlers below so I started hammering on the window and shouting for help to get their attention but they didn’t see me.
After her family disembarked from the plane, Mrs Curran she waited for the special assistance staff to arrive with a wheelchair (Pictured: Gatwick Airport)
‘There was an emergency phone so I tried that and someone answered and assured me someone would be along to collect me but then they just didn’t turn up. So I tried it again but the seon time no-one picked up.’
After the phone wasn’t answered she began hammering on the window to try and attract the attention of baggage handlers below but they didn’t seem to notice.
Eventually Mrs Curran spotted a flight of stairs to one side of the corridor leading up so she climbed out of the wheelchair and started trying to crawl up them in the hope of getting out.
She said: ‘All the while I was shouting, calling for help and hoping someone was at the top of the stairs who could help me. When I got halfway up I realised it was quite dangerous so I went back down.’
She said: ‘I was getting quite panicky because I really thought I may have to spend all night there. I had been yelling with all my heart and no-one had heard me so I was fearing the worst.’
Meanwhile Mrs Curran’s son, Martin, a business development manager, had been waiting patiently for his mother.
He said: ‘I was starting to get worried because she hadn’t appeared out of Passport Control and we were all wondering where she was.’
Mrs Cuuran said: ‘I was getting quite panicky because I really thought I may have to spend all night there. I had been yelling with all my heart and no-one had heard me so I was fearing the worst’ (Pictured: Long queues at Gatwick Airport)
Mr Curran, of Balham, London, spoke to the assistance desk at Arrivals but they were unable to do anything to help.
Increasingly concerned, he eventually flagged down a special assistance vehicle and pleaded with the woman to help him locate his mother.
Armed with a photograph of Mrs Curran, the pair set off on the vehicle in a hunt of the terminal to find the missing 92-year-old.
He said: ‘That woman deserves a medal. She was the only person who had helped us. We were all desperately worried. My mum is elderly and quite frail and no-one knew what had become of her.
‘Finally, the woman found a male colleague and he located mum and brought her out. She was very, very upset and in tears. Seeing her like that was horrible, a very upsetting experience.
‘When I heard what had happened I was shocked and angry. How could they treat a 92-year-old woman that way?
‘What if my mum had fallen down those flight of stairs she was crawling up or suffered a heart attack? This incident could have had catastrophic repercussions though, despite being very upset and shaken by the experience, is is unharmed.’
He has asked Gatwick Airport to account for why she was left abandoned by special assistance staff and why no-one was picked up an emergency telephone.
The distraught grandmother added: ‘I should never have been dumped in a side room. The staff member should have handed me over to one of his colleagues if he was particularly busy’
He said: ‘Surely as a public service, public safety should be your number one priority. This was clearly a massive failing.’
Mrs Curran said: ‘I don’t know what I’d had done if someone hadn’t eventually turned up to rescue me but no-one was able to explain why I had been left there in the first place.
‘I should never have been dumped in a side room. The staff member should have handed me over to one of his colleagues if he was particularly busy.’
A Gatwick Airport spokesperson said: ‘This sounds like an awful experience for the passenger concerned and we will continue to look into what might have happened.
‘At this stage, we can however say that two passengers had pre-booked assistance on this flight and were both disembarked as arranged by our assisted service provider Wilson James.
‘No passenger with the name reported had pre-booked assistance on this or any other flight that day. Nor were Wilson James advised by the crew that any further passengers had requested assistance while on this flight.
‘No passenger should have to experience something like this and we will continue to look into this, including contacting the airline concerned, to establish further information.’