MIAMI (WSVN) - A vehicle burst into flames after falling nine stories inside a Downtown Miami parking garage.
City of Miami Fire Rescue crews were dispatched to the 100 block of Biscayne Boulevard, just after 6 p.m., Tuesday evening.
According to officials, the building is a parking garage that uses vehicle elevators to take cars up and down to and from parking spaces.
For unknown reasons, the white Acura sedan rolled through a safety gate and fell to the bottom of the elevator shaft, causing the sedan to burst into flames.
“I was standing right there when the car hit. I was literally 10 feet away,” said Matt Olechnowicz, the car’s owner. “I saw the car drop and hit, so it’s heartbreaking.”
Olechnowicz said he had been working in Downtown Miami as a bank fraud investigator for three weeks, and that his customized vehicle had been featured in movies and TV shows.
“It was a manual car, so I believe they left it in gear, and somehow the car started, and it fell down nine floors,” he said. “I thought I hear my car alarm go off, and then I hear a big bang, turn around, and the car had fallen in the elevator shaft. It was a pretty loud bang.”
The vehicle was unoccupied, and there were no reported injuries, officials said.
“The only way they park the cars is by using the elevator. There’s no ramps,” Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said. “We also know that [the elevator] is only operated by the parking attendants, and anybody that’s driving the vehicle does not have access to those floors.”
Carroll said that portions of the parking garage would be shut down as a precaution for engineers and the fire marshal to inspect.
“What we found last night – and even this morning – was some safety concerns with regards to barriers that they have on the floors that are not sufficient enough to prevent vehicles from, obviously, falling off to the side,” Carroll said.
Officials said people who had cars parked at the east side of the garage would temporarily not have access to their vehicles.
Southbound lanes on Biscayne Boulevard were also temporarily closed as crews investigated but have since been reopened.
The car owner now believes the parking attendant may be responsible.
“I’m not sure if they left it in gear or what they did, but the car started, pushed forward through the gate and fell down in the elevator shaft,” he said.
“Right now I’m car-less,” added Olechnowicz after Ubering to work Wednesday morning. The building has been paying for his Uber rides to and from work since the incident.
The valet only parking garage is where most employees of the bank park, as well as tourists staying in the hotel next door.
Julie Goldstein was turned away from getting her rental car from the garage Wednesday morning. “I said, OK, I’m going to call Hertz and tell them what happened. I’ll be on a boat going to Mexico either way.”
All vehicles inside the garage were finally removed one by one, Wednesday. An elevator inspector and firefighters were on scene to make sure the process would go smoothly.
Some employees in the area said they refuse to park in the garage because this isn’t the first time an incident like this has happened.
Joseph Benedetto, a worker in the area, said, “Just before the construction, one of my coworkers, her Volkswagen EOS went down from the first floor and dipped right in, and it was totaled.”
Olechnowicz said, “I was not going to trade that. I mean, they would have to rip that car away from me.”
“You don’t know how much this car meant to me, so now I’m just dealing with the aftermath today,” he added.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the garage remained closed pending an inspection.
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