A FATHER has spoken of his agony after enduring a day-long wait before a stolen van containing vital wheelchairs for his daughter was found.

Ian Ford was left dismayed when he found out his blue Transit passenger van had been stolen by thieves in Heys Lane, Blackburn, at about 9.30am on Saturday.

The nine-seater van contained an electric and manual wheelchair which his 12-year-old daughter Erin Ford uses, as she can’t walk due to having cerebral palsy.

It is also used as a family van for Mr Ford and the rest of his children and partner’s children - and they had just returned from holiday in Rhyl when the theft happened.

But following a huge social media reaction to an appeal by the family, the van was recovered by police this morning off Romney Walk in Shadsworth, Blackburn, with the wheelchairs and other items intact.

A delighted Mr Ford, 42, who lives on Heys Lane, told the Lancashire Telegraph: “We had come back from a family holiday in Rhyl on the Friday night.

“I parked the Transit passenger van on nearby Tiverton Drive but when I returned there at 9.30am on the Saturday, I discovered that the van had gone.

“We were all distraught as the van contained the two wheelchairs, a travel cot and pram for one of our children and our other children’s birthday gifts.

Mr Ford, who lives with his partner Kerry Shaw and their child Saul Ford and her four children, Logan, Ava, Taylor and Gabriel Shaw, then put an appeal out on Twitter while his partner did so on Facebook, in a desperate bid to find the van.

Following an appeal, which saw Facebook posts shared thousands of times and a tweet retweeted hundreds of times from places as far as Surrey and Birmingham, police informed the family that the van had been found.

Mr Ford said: “It’s absolutely news and such a relief, as the 24 hours before had been agonising.

“My daughter had been immobile as she relied on the electric wheelchair to go to Holy Cross High School in Chorley and a manual one to go on days out. She is also a big Blackburn Rovers fan and was unable to watch their game against Cardiff on Saturday because of it.

“While other items were in the van.

“We felt bereft and it was just agonising for us as a family, as the van is so important and vital to us, so we’re delighted it’s been found."

Erin's mum Helen Ford, who lives in Chorley, thanked everyone who helped with the appeal.

She said: "I'm just absolutely ecstatic.

"We'd all just like to thank everyone for their support.

"This all really shows the power of Facebook and social media as we've had Facebook posts shared thousands of times.

"The appeal really do go viral."