Limbless swimmer finds stolen wheelchair

The €24,000 custom-made wheelchair, stolen from quadruple amputee French swimmer Philippe Croizon last week, has been recovered in one piece, the record-breaking athlete confirmed late on Monday.

Limbless swimmer finds stolen wheelchair
Philippe Croizon, who was the first quadruple amputee swimmer to swim the Channel. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Limbless French adventurer Philippe Croizon, known for his feats of swimming and diving, said on Monday his custom-designed wheelchair has been found after he reported it stolen while he was on holiday in northern France.

Croizon, famed as the first quadruple amputee to swim across the English Channel, said the driver of a bus for handicapped people found the wheelchair in a parking lot on Friday and took it for safekeeping not knowing who the owner was.

"He only called me on Monday evening to tell me about it, after watching a report on this case" on French television, Croizon told AFP.

"Thursday morning I'll be at the police station in Dieppe to get my wheelchair back," an elated Croizon, 45, told BFM television.

"It's a big, big relief … All's well that end's well."

Later on he posted a message on Twitter: "A special thought to all my disabled friends who are struggling today without a wheelchair. Let's not forget them."

The athlete had reported the theft of the wheelchair and its trailer, which he discovered missing on Friday morning while staying with friends near Dieppe.

"I feel sad and angry," he told AFP earlier. "Let them keep the trailer if they want, but at least give back the wheelchair."

Croizon, 45, said the high-tech, all-terrain wheelchair was brand-new and had been designed specially for him.

“It’s not just my electric wheelchair they’ve nicked,” Croizon told French daily Le Parisien on Sunday.

“They also stole my independence, and without that I’m nothing,” he added.

SEE ALSO: Thieves 'stole from victims of train crash'

On Monday, he lamented on Twitter and in the French media, that it had taken him a year to procure the special all-terrain wheelchair, and that friends of his had helped him pay €24,000 for it.

Furthermore, Croizon took the opportunity to point out that France’s social security system reimbursed him just €3,000 for the crucial equipment, despite the fact that “on average, an electric wheelchair costs about €10,000.”

Croizon began his extraordinary endurance swimming career just two years before his Channel swim, and in January becoming the first quadruple amputee to complete a 33-metre (100-foot) dive.

Between April and August 2012, Croizon once again made history when, along with long-distance swimmer Arnaud Chassery, he swam four straits between five continents.

The two completed the astonishing set of swims by crossing the Bering Strait between the US state of Alaska, and Russia.

The Frenchman braved strong currents and near-freezing temperatures in a roughly four kilometre swim between the US island of Little Diomede and Big Diomede in Russia that he said took about one hour and 20 minutes.

"This was the hardest swim of my life, with a water temperature of four degrees Celsius and strong currents," the deeply moved Croizon told AFP after reaching the Russian island.

"We made it," Croizon told AFP.

“Everything is possible, everything can be done when you have the will to go beyond yourself. We're all equal, disabled and non-disabled people on all continents," he concluded.

SEE ALSO: Thieves abduct widow, aged 85, from Paris street

Croizon had been a steel worker by trade, until he was electrocuted in March 1994 while working at his house in Saint Remy-sur-Creuse in central France.

He was forced to have both arms and legs amputated in the aftermath of the horrific accident.

The following is footage of Croizon completely his extraordinary cross-Channel swim in September 2010, from MSNBC.

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Disabled student loses legal battle against France’s ‘discriminatory’ trains

A wheelchair-using student has been dismissed by a Toulouse judge after he sued France’s national rail body for not using trains designed to allow disabled people access to the carriage toilet or cafeteria.

Disabled student loses legal battle against France's 'discriminatory' trains
Kévin Fermine suffers from Little's syndrome, a type of cerebral palsy. Photo: AFP

French law student and activist Kévin Fermine decided enough was enough after numerous train trips from the southern French city to Paris, always unable to gain access to the toilet or the train cafeteria during the 7-hour journey. 

“I’m 26 years old. How much longer before I can travel freely by train?” he’s quoted as saying by France BFM TV station.

The young man, who suffers from Little's Disease (a form of cerebral palsy), decided to take the matter to court, arguing SNCF was harnessing a form of “discrimination” against him and all other wheelchair-bound passengers.

“The SNCF forces people with reduced mobility to be placed in the middle of the carriage passageway, forcing other passengers to step over them to reach their seat,” he said in a press release.

“They also switch off the assistance buttons meant for people with disabilities”.

“I have urinated myself in the past, just because I couldn’t go to the bathroom.

I can't move from the beginning to the end of my trip. I hardly ever have access to the train cafeteria. I'm a prisoner trapped in my spot. It's really very degrading, I can’t stand it anymore”.

READ ALSO: Why is the Paris Metro still out of bounds for disabled people? 

Fermine's lawyer told the judge that SNCF was “in breach of the rules relating to the accessibility of people with reduced mobility”, demanding €20,000 in damages for his client. 

But SNCF’s attorney Alexandra Aderno stressed at the hearing that the public rail company was under no obligation to comply “until 2024”.

“The 2015 law allows SNCF to propose a calendar of changes, it was approved by the State in 2016 and it will extend over 9 years,” she pleaded before Toulouse’s Civil Court. 

The law allows SNCF to gradually implement “its infrastructure changes, services and materials” in accordance with those pertaining to the accessibility of the disabled. 

The judge agreed with SNCF’s case and dismissed Fermine’s claim, ordering him instead to pay all the legal costs of the rail company for the case. 

The decision represents another insult for France’s disabled community, who since 2015 have been particularly irate by the government’s decision to push back the deadline by which public transport and buildings had to be wheelchair friendly by nine years.

That was at a time when only 15 to 40 percent of the buildings that were required to improve their disabled access had done so.

FIND OUT MORE: Anger as France delays wheelchair access laws