Woman plummets five stories from downtown parking garage

A woman drove off the 5th floor of a parking garage in Downtown Austin Thursday morning. It is the second time a driver has managed to break through the cable wiring at that garage in less than a year.


Thursday morning a black BMW lay smashed face down behind the Littlefield and Scarbrough building parking garage. William Burch witnessed the vehicle fall five stories.

"I pulled in to turn around and back up against the dumpster and I heard something,” said William Burch.

Burch says he flashed back to a similar incident that took place at the same garage back in September.

“I figured I need to start driving forward since I can't see what's above me,” said Burch.

Police say he moved just in time. The vehicle went through the cable wiring on the 5th floor of the parking garage and crashed into the back of Burch's Tahoe. The force shattered all of the back windows.

Burch and other witnesses went to the driver's aide.

"She was upside down. They had to pull her out from her seatbelt and her head was bloody and they pulled her off to the side under the awning. I rushed back over here and called my wife to let her know I was okay,” he said.

Burch says the woman made a call too, "She was afraid she was worried going to die. She said if I die tell so and so. So she was pretty shaken up." She was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

"I'm not a structural engineer. I don't design buildings, but there seems to be something of flaw,” said APD Corporal Chris Carlisle. Austin Police Corporal Chris Carlisle responded to both this event and when a man broke through the wires in September.

"The gentleman said he accidentally pushed the accelerator instead of the brake and launched himself. That time the retention cables caught around the front axle of the car and the car was left dangling. The guy climbed out of a sunroof back into the parking garage,” said Carlisle.

After that incident, code department officials investigated and closed out the case once the building fixed the broken wires. Code was back out Thursday to look for violations.

Burch, who works in construction hopes a change will be made. "There probably should be some type of retainer wall there being that this has happened twice within a year,” he said.

Code officials say they will investigate to determine if this event was also human error. If it was not, they will look into structural issues. If found, they will recommend changes. As for now the cable wiring is allowed.

The owner of the parking garage released the following statement to FOX 7:

We regret the unfortunate accident that happened today in our garage and are thankful that no lives were lost. A similar incident happened in September 2016 in the same garage, but on a different floor.

This morning, the car apparently hit the barriers at a rate of speed sufficient to break-through and hit the building across the alley. The garage was built in 1979, and these are the only two such incidents since its construction 38 years ago.

After the previous incident, we engaged a structural engineer to review the situation, and repairs to the safety barriers were performed according to his recommendation. 

The City of Austin permitted and inspected such repairs to their satisfaction.

Premier Parking, the manager of the parking garage, manages over 400 parking locations across the United States, and they have not experienced anything like this in their 15-year history other than the previous incident. Although all the facts of this accident are still being gathered, we will work to ensure the safety of our parking guests.