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Disabled man, 82, died at Gatwick when he fell backwards down an escalator

A disabled passenger fell to his death on an escalator at Gatwick Airport after growing frustrated while waiting for assistance off an EasyJet plane.

The man had been waiting for help to disembark his flight as he travelled with his wife and son on Wednesday, when he decided to leave the aircraft.

His partner is understood to have already been taken off the jet by Wilson – a private firm contracted with helping disabled passengers.

The 82-year-old was left on the plane and due to be collected when he left on foot with other passengers.

The tragedy unfolded on an escalator going up from the runway, level to a tunnel that goes into the north terminal.

EasyJet staff battled to save his life after being first on the scene when he tumbled on the moving staircase at around 12.50pm.

A source said: ‘A member of staff came to take [a] woman into the airport but the man was left on the plane. He must not have wanted to wait for the staff member to come back so made his own way into the terminal.

‘While on the escalator the passenger fell down and suffered serious injuries as a result and died. This is a tragic incident which should never have happened. Someone should have been helping him.’

The Skybridge – which opened in 2005 – and cost more than £100million to build.

Its 194-metre length meant 55,000 transfer-bus journeys a year were no longer needed to get people from their planes to the airport building.

It is understood that this escalator to the £110million Skybridge is where the man fell down

The Skybridge was built in 2005 and replaced the need for buses to take passengers from jets

The Skybridge was built in 2005 and replaced the need for buses to take passengers from jets

A disabled passenger fell to his death after reportedly becoming frustrated by long waits at Gatwick Airport. [File image]

A disabled passenger fell to his death after reportedly becoming frustrated by long waits at Gatwick Airport. [File image]

The source told The Sun: ‘Normal airport staff have had to be reminded not to help disabled passengers if they’re not qualified to, even if it means passengers waiting for hours.’

Britain’s beleaguered airports have hit the headlines in recent weeks with flights cancelled last minute, baggage stuck hundreds of miles away and snaking queues becoming the new norm.

Shocking scenes from around the country have even shown some holidaymakers forced to sleep on the floor of terminals amid long delays. 

Travel expert Paul Charles, from The PC Agency, said: ‘Questions will be asked about the lack of staff available to assist in the middle of the day when this flight arrived. It shows the increasing frustration of some passengers who can’t wait on aircraft for long periods hoping help may eventually arrive.’

Gatwick is one of many airports that have witnessed huge queues and flight chaos caused by staff shortages this month.

Earlier this week, EasyJet revealed it was taking four weeks longer than normal for new cabin crew to receive security passes because of referencing delays.

Holiday plans for millions of Britons continue to hang in the balance as holidaymakers brace for a week of rail chaos.

Gatwick Airport: Airlines are now struggling to rehire workers previously let go, leading to a shortage of security staff, ground handlers and check-in staff

Gatwick Airport: Airlines are now struggling to rehire workers previously let go, leading to a shortage of security staff, ground handlers and check-in staff

Gatwick apologised to Victoria Brignell, who is paralysed and requires the use of an adapted wheelchair, who waited on her flight for an extra 90 minutes after flying back into the UK following a holiday in Malta

Gatwick apologised to Victoria Brignell, who is paralysed and requires the use of an adapted wheelchair, who waited on her flight for an extra 90 minutes after flying back into the UK following a holiday in Malta

What is Gatwick’s £110million Skybridge?

The Skybridge was created to eliminate the need to bus people to and from their aircraft at one of the UK’s biggest airports and cost £110million.

Around 55,000 transfer-bus journeys a year were saved by the 194 metre long bridge at Gatwick airport in West Sussex.

Linking Pier 6 to Gatwick’s North Terminal the 2,700-ton bridge is the largest in the world to pass over an airport taxiway.

At 32m, it is high enough for Boeing 747 jumbo jets to pass underneath. At a ceremony including professional dancers and a band, the bridge was officially opened by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling who described it as ‘a terrific new facility’.

He added at the time: ‘The Government’s air transport White Paper emphasised the importance of Gatwick as one of the busiest international airports in the world. The airport has an important and growing role in helping to meet future demands for air travel to and from the UK and in contributing to the economic benefit that aviation brings to this country.

‘This bridge will make it easier for passengers to pass through the airport while reducing the airport’s impact on the environment.’

Mike Clasper, chief executive of airport operator BAA, had also hailed the bridge: ‘This major new landmark for Gatwick sets the stage for a positive future for the airport at a time when passenger numbers are booming and when it is growing a strong network of world wide routes and is continuing to be a pioneer for sustainable growth.’

The pier at Gatwick provides 11 new aircraft stands and around three million passengers a year will use the bridge.

The bridge is designed to expand or contract by one millimetre for every one degree change in the temperature.

The pier is the biggest project at Gatwick since the North Terminal opened in 1988.

Gatwick Express cancelled all trains for three days next week and Eurostar axed dozens of services, as last-minute crunch talks continued with Network Rail.

A spokesman for EasyJet said: ‘A number of our cabin crew provided medical assistance to a passenger at Gatwick whilst waiting for paramedics. However, the passenger sadly passed away.’

A Gatwick Airport spokesperson added: ‘This is a sad and tragic incident and our thoughts remain with the family of the deceased.

‘A member of Wilson James staff was waiting when the aircraft arrived and was in the process of disembarking the three PRM passengers when the incident occurred.

‘Staff shortages were not a factor in this incident as has been claimed. It is normal for one staff member to disembark three passengers who require assistance by taking them one at a time the short distance to the waiting buggy.

A formal investigation is currently under way and it would not be appropriate to comment further.’

Sussex Police added in a statement: ‘I can confirm that South East Coast Ambulance Service was called to reports of a person having suffered a fall and injury at Gatwick North Terminal at approximately 12.50pm.

‘Ambulance crews attended the scene and were joined at the scene by the Kent, Surrey, Sussex Air Ambulance Service. Sadly despite the best efforts of all those who attended a man died at the scene.’

The developments come just a week after Gatwick Airport apologised to a quadriplegic passenger who was left stranded on her plane for more than an hour when staff failed to help her leave.

Victoria Brignell, who is paralysed and requires the use of an adapted wheelchair, had been flying back into the UK following a holiday in Malta.

She also claimed she wasn’t able to use the toilet while stuck on the plane, while her carers were also made to stay and wait an extra hour and half until she safely arrived home. 

Ms Brignell, of Shepherd’s Bush, said: ‘I booked the help three months in advance, it wasn’t as if I just turned up, they knew I was coming, and I reminded them two weeks ago, and still I didn’t get the service that I should expect to have.

‘My wheelchair arrived promptly, but the people who were supposed to help me get off the plane didn’t turn up – they were busy elsewhere.’ 

It comes as BBC correspondent Frank Gardner, who uses a wheelchair, slammed Heathrow after being left on an empty plane last month – accusing the treating disabled passengers as ‘lowest priority’. 

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The BBC's Security correspondent Frank Gardner was left on the empty flight from Estonia last night and says he was told that no staff were available to help him get off the plane

The BBC’s Security correspondent Frank Gardner was left on the empty flight from Estonia last night and says he was told that no staff were available to help him get off the plane

It was the fourth time he says this has happened to him since he began using a wheelchair in 2004 – after being shot six times by militants while reporting in Saudi Arabia.

The veteran journalist, 60, furiously tweeted: ‘It’s happened again. Stuck on an empty plane at Heathrow airport long after everyone else is off — ‘no staff to get my wheelchair off the plane’.

‘I am SO disappointed with @HeathrowAirport as disabled passengers are once again apparently the lowest priority.’

It comes as Downing Street said ministers and officials had been meeting with aviation industry leaders and Border Force to increase ‘resilience for the sector throughout the summer’ to avert further travel chaos. 

Experts said that airlines ‘are simply unable to cope with that demand due to a lack of resources’ and warned that the ‘nightmare’ disruption could last all year.

BA has axed hundreds of flights up on some routes to the US and the Far East until September, affecting thousands of travellers’ plans.

The Unite union said there are ‘chronic staff shortages across the board’, and that ‘current pay and conditions in the industry are so poor that workers are voting with their feet’, adding: ‘It can only be resolved by offering higher wages and better working conditions for staff.’

Union officials added that many airport staff are being asked to work extra hours, and ‘relying on staff overtime to run the business can’t be a long-term solution’.

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