At around 9pm on Tuesday 10 October, fire broke out in Car Park 2 at Luton airport, and over 1,400 vehicles were destroyed. Air travel has long since resumed from the airport. Yet as the calendar moves towards Halloween and Bonfire night, the investigations continue.
The sight of vehicles on fire at a British airport triggered memories of a terrorist incident in Scotland in 2007. It became clear, however, that this was not a planned act of terror. More ominously, it was a terrible accident.
The fire began on the third floor of the multi-storey car park and spread fast. A major incident was declared at 9:45pm, and there was soon speculation on social media that the fire had been caused by an electric vehicle. At its peak fifteen fire crews were engaged in bringing the fire under control and by the morning it had been extinguished and the claims that it was an electric car at fault were debunked.
With the dawn came the revelation that the car park had partially collapsed. Miraculously, no lives were lost.
Speculation that the ‘Luton Dart’, the airport to rail express that links the airport to the nearby train line had been damaged was also proved wrong. The Dart was closed as a safety precaution, as it travelled through a tunnel that was near the car park. It reopened a few days later.
Insurers speak up
Meanwhile, for those affected the Association of British Insurers (ABI) quickly issued a statement on 11 October: “Owners of vehicles caught up in this fire will naturally be very concerned. Comprehensive and third-party fire and theft motor insurance policies will cover fire damage. Drivers affected should notify any claim to their motor insurer. We will continue to work with our members and Luton Airport to understand the situation, as and when more information becomes available.”
They also pointed out that it was too early to estimate the cost of the fire, that travellers caught up in the disruption should check the position with their travel operator, and that some policies might offer cover.
Not every insurer was quite in tune with the ABI. A grandmother who had left her car in Car Park 2 to go on holiday returned after the fire and made a claim; her insurer offered a fraction of the cost of the vehicle and claimed it was ‘her fault’. Once the story broke the insurer changed their mind and paid in full.
This isn’t the first time a fire has broken out at an airport car park. A fire at Stansted Airport in 2010 destroyed 24 vehicles, due to an electrical fault in one of the cars parked in the Long Stay car park. Tracing the owners of the vehicles proved problematic, given that many were overseas and not every parked vehicle was noted on documents held by either the airport or travel companies.
In recent days it has been revealed that a person has been charged with criminal damage ‘as a precautionary measure’ in relation to the fire. However, investigations continue and any speculation beyond as to what, where and why remains just that – speculation.
More from East Anglia Bylines
CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE BYLINES NETWORK CROWDFUNDER!