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'Our family is traumatized' | Family sues Navy Pier after 8-year-old falls 24 feet from climbing wall

The lawsuit says the child was not properly secured to the climbing wall by Navy Pier staff. A shocking video captured the boy’s 24-foot fall to the concrete.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Grand Rapids family has filed a lawsuit against Navy Pier alleging that employee negligence caused their son’s severe injuries in a climbing wall fall. 

The Brewer family had been visiting Navy Pier on July 27 when their 8-year-old son, George, took a turn on a climbing wall. The lawsuit claims George was given the OK to begin climbing by the staff member operating the climbing wall. 

The climbing wall runs on an auto-belay system. When used correctly, this type of system allows climbers to be secured to the wall using a rope and a carabiner, taking up slack automatically as the climber ascends. The auto-belay system allows the climber to gradually descend once you're at the top or if you fall off of the wall. 

George began climbing, reached the top and jumped off, expecting to be slowly lowered to the ground, the suit says. Instead, he fell 24 feet to the concrete below. His fall was captured in a shocking video filmed by his mother.

WARNING: This video is hard to watch and may not be suitable for all viewers.  

“I will never forget the horror of my son hitting the ground so hard with no protection. Within seconds, a beautiful family day turned into our worst nightmare. Little did we know that as we encouraged our son to climb to the top of the wall that he was going to fall off and nearly die,” said Erin Brewer. “Our family is traumatized by this.”

The family says the fall fractured George's left femur, chin, ankle and pelvis. He also suffered from a concussion and cuts on his body and face.

George has since received four surgeries for his injuries. Another surgery is scheduled for January. He was in a wheelchair for several months after the accident and is now using a walker and receiving physical therapy.

Parents Erin and Gideon Brewer filed the lawsuit in Circuit Court of Cook County on Tuesday. The lawsuit accuses Navy Pier of negligence and willful and wanton disregard for the child’s safety. 

It alleges the employee at the climbing wall did not properly secure George's harness to the wall. It also claims the lack of a safety net or cushioning under the climbing wall, which is recommended, contributed to George's injuries.

“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,” said Gideon Brewer. “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.”

The Brewer family further alleges that Navy Pier employees did not attempt to help George or contact 911 after he fell. 

The two employees operating the climbing wall at the time of the accident have also been named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Erin and Gideon Brewer will be holding a press conference in Chicago with their representation at Levin and Perconti at 10 a.m.

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