‘We thought he was dead.’ Child fell 24 feet from Navy Pier climbing wall after operators failed to attach rope, suit alleges

Last July, 8-year-old George Brewer was placed into a harness but wasn’t attached to a rope, a new lawsuit claims. George raced up the wall and then let go, plummeting onto concrete and seriously injuring himself, video taken by his mother shows.

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Erin Brewer and her child, George, who recovered after falling from a climbing wall at Navy Pier in July.

Erin Brewer and her child, George, who recovered after falling from a climbing wall at Navy Pier in July.

Provided photo

Navy Pier’s climbing wall was the highlight of 8-year-old George Brewer’s yearly trip with his family from Michigan to Chicago.

Last July, around closing time at the pier, the climbing wall’s operators put George into a harness but didn’t attach the rope, a new lawsuit claims.

The child allegedly was instructed to press a button to start a timer and begin climbing.

George raced up the wall and then let go, plummeting 24 feet onto concrete, video taken by his mother shows.

“We thought he was dead when he fell,” said George’s father, Gideon Brewer.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. PLEASE WATCH WITH CAUTION.

George’s parents on Wednesday spoke about the incident that severely injured their son. Their lawyers filed a lawsuit in Cook County court Tuesday against Navy Pier, the wall’s operator and its two employees who were working then.

“This was a break to try to have some fun this summer, and it turned into the biggest nightmare of our entire life,” said the child’s mother, Erin Brewer.

George broke his tibia, femur, pelvis, chin, teeth and had a concussion, his mother said. He had three surgeries at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and another back home in Grand Rapids, his mother said. Another surgery is planned for January.

George was in a wheelchair for two months, his mother said.

As Erin and Gideon Brewer listen, their attorney, Steve Levin, on Wednesday discusses a lawsuit filed against Navy Pier after the Brewers’ 8-year-old son, George, fell from the pier’s climbing wall last July.

As Erin and Gideon Brewer listen, their attorney, Steve Levin, on Wednesday discusses a lawsuit filed against Navy Pier after the Brewers’ 8-year-old son, George, fell from the pier’s climbing wall last July.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Their lawyer, Steve Levin, said documents from an internal investigation by Navy Pier show that the wall operators admitted there was no rope attached to George. Those operators claimed they were “distracted” and did not see the boy climb the wall, Levin said.

“We theorize that this was near closing time. They were closing up the ride, and they let down their guard. And child safety is a zero-tolerance profession,” Levin said.

George’s parents claim they heard one of the operators tell their son “hit the button — that’s the signal to start,” according to Levin. Navy Pier has not addressed that claim, Levin said.

It’s unclear if Navy Pier has changed its operating procedures in response to the injury, or if the operators were disciplined or fired, Levin said.

A spokeswoman for Navy Pier said it would not comment on the lawsuit or other questions about the wall. The climbing wall, called Klime Wallz, remained cordoned off for the season at Navy Pier on Wednesday.

The “Klime Wallz” where George Brewer fell in July 2022 and injured himself.

The “Klime Wallz” at Navy Pier where George Brewer fell in July and injured himself

Dave Struett/Sun-Times

The wall’s operator, Spectrum Sports, did not respond to a request for comment.

Gideon Brewer and his three sons had climbed the wall the day before the July 27 incident, he said.

“Our boys are boys, and they love to climb things,” Erin Brewer said. “This was the highlight of the trip for them.”

After the fall, she said they were “screaming for help.”

“Thank God there were some bystanders that heard me screaming and came running and were able to call 911 and were able to help us,” Erin Brewer said.

“Hearing your child asking if he’s going to die — I mean, he’s an 8-year-old boy — it’s like his innocence was taken from him. This should’ve been a fun experience. And it couldn’t have been any worse,” his mother said.

George Brewer recovering after falling from Navy Pier’s climbing wall in July.

George Brewer has had four surgeries since his fall in July and was in a wheelchair for two months, his mom said.

Provided photo

“It’s infuriating because this was 100% preventable. This should never have happened — ever,” she said.

George’s father said he wants to hold Navy Pier accountable so this won’t happen to another family.

“We trusted them to take care of our son, and they failed. It’s a heads-up to parents everywhere that you can’t let your guard down,” Gideon Brewer said.

The family’s 10-count lawsuit is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

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