Saturday, February 18, 2006

One-Armed Man Fined For Taking Too Long To Unload Luggage At Airport

AUSTRALIA-- A one-armed man who took too long to unload luggage at Melbourne airport was given a parking ticket.

Now the airport authority has threatened to take him to court if he doesn't pay the fine.

Stephen McKenzie-McHarg was told by an airport parking officer he could park in a bus zone to help his family with their bags if he was quick.

But while his motor was still running, and he was struggling with the luggage, another parking inspector wrote him a ticket.

"I've been without an arm since I was 21. (Now) I'm 54 and used to physical work, but I knew I was in trouble," he said this week.

"I said to the first inspector, 'I've travelled five hours from the country and I've got two women to pick up with six big suitcases'. The head man said, 'Be quick'."

"I wasn't 30 seconds, but the next little fella threw the book at me."

Mr McKenzie-McHarg said the car was never out of his sight while he helped with his wife and daughter's bags.

His family had just returned from America.

"He's saying, 'Get going, get going'. I said, 'Why don't you give me a hand?' Then he said, 'I'm going to book you'."

Mr McKenzie-McHarg wrote a letter challenging the $66 fine, but without success. Melbourne airport then threatened to take him to court.

Mr McKenzie-McHarg has vowed to fight his case in court.

"I'm fighting it on principle. I feel very much discriminated against," he said.

"Australians are supposed to be compassionate, helpful people and the ones I know are.

"I'd like them to apologise and change their ways. Next time the fellow might have just one leg."

The fine fiasco follows outrage over Qantas's treatment of disabled passengers wanting to use their wheelchairs outside terminals.

Melbourne airport spokeswoman Brooke Lord said a strict policy was necessary because of terrorism fears and Federal Government requirements.

Their legal department was looking at Mr McKenzie-McHarg's case, but she could not say whether the charges would be pursued.

The incident occurred on June 1 last year.

Mr McKenzie-McHarg has hired a solicitor but is in a legal limbo after receiving contradictory advice from the airport on whether the fine is being taken to court.


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