Woman suing downtown Austin parking garage after car falls 7 stories

Christine Bowmer of Cedar Park is suing the owner of a downtown Austin parking garage after she fell seven stories in her car. (Austin Police Department)

AUSTIN, Texas (KEYE) - The woman whose car fell seven stories from a downtown Austin parking garage last month is now suing the owner and management of the garage.

Christi Bowmer said her foot slipped and hit the gas instead of the break. She said her BMW easily went through the cable barriers around the garage. Her car struck a gas meter on the building across the alley before it hit the ground below, landing on another car. That driver was able to walk away from the crash uninjured.

"I'm lucky, I'm lucky that i'm sitting here," said Bowmer, 49, of Cedar Park.

Bowmer is asking for over $1 million in damages to cover medical costs and raise awareness of the possible dangers that could still be at the parking garage.

"It's hard to move, it's hard to get up, it's hard to breathe, it's hard to get out of bed," she said.

According to a member of her legal team, Bowmer suffered two arterial hemorrhages, a fractured sternum, severe damage to her vertebrae, a fractured ankle, and a broken rib when she drove her car off the seventh floor of the Littlefield Garage at East Sixth and Brazos streets. She wears a hat to cover scars from the surgeries to repair hemorrhages. She said doctors told her she had a 10 percent chance to live at one point. Good Samaritans who can be seen in security video taken from the bay across the alley are credited by Bowmer as a main factor in saving her life. She feels if she had waited for EMS to respond she wouldn't have survived.

"I knew I was dying... and so this man prayed with me... this good Samaritan called my husband and daughter I was able to say goodbye, I thought that was the last time," she said.

The lawsuit claims the garage operators were negligent by not upgrading the cable barrier system.

"This case is about Defendants putting profits over safety and knowingly exposing parking garage residents to foreseeable dangers," states the lawsuit.

"This should have not have happened to me. I hope it will never happen to anyone ever again," said Bowmer.

In September, another driver narrowly escaped injury in a similar scenario, but that time the garage's cables wrapped around the car's front axle - dangling it in the air as the driver climbed out of the sunroof to safety.

According to the Austin Code Department, the garage has had three violations since 2014. Two violations involved the elevator and the third came after the retention cables were broken in the September incident.

A spokesperson for the parking garage didn't have any comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.

After the latest incident, the owner of the parking garage released the following statement:

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.

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