GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids couple is suing Navy Pier in Chicago after their 8-year-old son was seriously injured when jumping from a climbing wall without a safety harness.
Erin and Gideon Brewer’s attorneys filed their lawsuit in Cook County, Illinois, on Tuesday, alleging Navy Pier, Spectrum Sports and two workers were negligent in ensuring their son George’s safety.
Video released by the family shows George scaling a climbing wall at the pier on July 27. While he is wearing a harness, the family said Navy Pier workers didn’t attach a safety rope to that harness. At the end of the video, George can be seen jumping from the wall — but there was no safety rope to slow him.
“He got to the top and he said to hit the button up at the top to stop the timer, and then he let go to rappel, which is what you’re supposed to do and he just dropped,” George’s mother Erin Brewer said at a news conference with her attorneys Wednesday morning.
The family says George fell 24 feet to the concrete below, which had no safety netting or cushioning.
“It felt like a nightmare,” Erin Brewer said. “I kept thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is one of those times where I’m having a horrible dream and I’m going to wake up any second.’ And I did not and all I could do, all Gideon could do, we were just screaming for help.”
George broke his femur and pelvis and suffered a concussion. He has already had four surgeries, the family said, and a fifth is expected in January. He was in a wheelchair for months, though he has now progressed to walking with the aid of a walker.
“We trusted Navy Pier to operate the climbing wall safely and care about our kids. It is a major tourist attraction and we thought it was reputable,” Gideon Brewer said in a statement released by his attorneys. “Part of the reason we are filing this lawsuit is to warn other parents who take their children to Navy Pier to beware. Safety and concern for children are clearly not their priorities.”
Erin Brewer said the family is “traumatized” by what happened.
“Hearing your child asking if he’s going to die — I mean, he’s an 8-year-old boy,” she said. “It’s like his innocence was taken from him. This should have been a fun experience and it couldn’t have been any worse.”
The family also alleged no Navy Pier workers tried to help George after the fall and that bystanders called 911. They also say no one from Navy Pier ever contacted them afterward.
The Brewers’ attorney Steve Levin said there was “no excuse” for George not being properly harnessed.
He said his firm received the statements the employees gave that day after the fall through a Freedom of Information Act request. Both said they did not see the child go up the wall or fall, according to Levin.
“Where were these two operators that were supposedly in charge with the safety of these children,” Levin said. “Child safety in this type of attraction is a zero-tolerance business. It is no excuse to say we were distracted. It is no excuse to say this was happening near closing time. It’s no excuse to try to blame an 8-year-old child or the parents for something that is fundamental.”
In a short statement released to News 8 Wednesday morning, Navy Pier said it had not seen the suit.
“It is our standard practice not to comment on litigation,” the statement continued.