AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Fire Department says it is a miracle a young man survived after driving off the top floor of a nine-story parking garage in downtown Austin Friday afternoon.
Austin police said the 24-year-old went off the edge just before 2:40 p.m. at the Littlefield Garage at the corner of Congress Avenue and East Sixth Street. AFD Battalion Chief Palmer Buck said the driver was pulling into a parking spot at a slow rate of speed when his car would not stop.
The Toyota 4Runner went through the wire guides and flipped end over end. One of the wires wrapped around one of the wheels and held the 5,000-pound SUV in mid-air along the side of the garage.
“Car, metal and glass started falling down from the sky so I slammed on my brakes and I heard the guy in the car screaming for his life,” said Carl Schmidt, who delivers sandwiches on his bike for the Jimmy John’s around the corner. Schmidt was making his way through the alley when he saw the scene above him.
Seconds before, Zachary Cayson and his two friends had just parked in the garage after a 13-hour road trip from Alabama.
“I sprinted up the stairwell and I was the first one to get there,” said Cayson who started talking to the driver, who was still buckled in, trying to calm him down. “I introduced myself and we had a quick little chat about what we should do, whether we should stay there and wait for the police and the fire department or we should try to get him out of there.”
They decided in the heat of the moment, getting the driver out was the best thing to do.
“We unbuckled the seat belt, and I took one arm and then he kind of swung his legs over to the side and there was a tiny little ledge there right on the other side of the barrier,” said Cayson. “He managed to plant his feet on that and I picked him up.”
Several people who work in the downtown area took photos of the car dangling between the garage and another building. KXAN Viewer Andrew Miller was grabbing a bite to eat at the nearby P. Terry’s when he saw the commotion and immediately ran outside to see what was going on.
“The driver was still in the driver seat when I came outside,” says Miller. “It looked pretty dangerous even though it wasn’t swinging.” Miller immediately took out his phone and managed to get video of the driver climbing out of the vehicle moments after it went off the garage. Miller says the whole incident reminded him of a scene from Jurassic Park.
Emergency crews were able to lower the SUV down to the ground shortly after 5 p.m
“Wherever [the driver] is at, I hope he’s doing alright and he feels blessed,” said Cayson. “I do, too.”