CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - The details of a Charlotte boy's death after being trapped inside a rotating Atlanta restaurant are spelled out in a lawsuit filed by his parents against the 73-story hotel and restaurant where it happened.
Charlie Holt, 5, died April 14 after his head was caught in a 5-inch gap between the furniture and a wall as the restaurant's floor rotated in the opposite direction. The accident occurred as restaurant patrons watched and has horrified parents around the world.
The boy's parents, Michael and Rebecca Holt, are seeking a jury trial against Marriott International, where the Sun Dial restaurant is located, and a handful of others who they say knew the hazard existed. The couple claim the restaurant's turning mechanism was a long-standing hazard that turned fatal when their son's head was crushed.
The couple said they were leaving the restaurant at the time of the accident, following the same path they had used to enter the business. However, the shifting of the walls blocked their path, they say in the complaint.
A narrative of the scene is explained in grisly detail.
"As Charlie walked around the booth (following the path toward the exit), he was suddenly trapped in a pinch point between the wooden booth and the stationary interior wall," says the complaint. "Charlie's parents were only a few feet behind him and immediately went to help him...There was no safety device to stop the floor's rotation automatically. The restaurant continued to turn, wrenching Charlie deeper into the narrowing pinch point.
"The Holts screamed for help, for someone to stop the movement. It didn't stop...Michael repeatedly threw his body weight against he booth, but it would not budge. Michael literally tore the booth apart with his hands, but could not free Charlie."
A crowd of other patrons joined the effort to remove the booth and stop the wall.
Rebecca Holt stood by holding the couple's other child, 2-year-old Ellie, and "was absolutely hysterical...and at times had to be physically restrained," according to the complaint. "Rebecca was praying."
The complaint goes on to explain what Michael Holt saw and heard as the boy's head was eventually pulled into a space "only a couple of inches wide and was crushed."
"Eventually, after several more minutes and with many people helping, the booth budged just enough to allow Charlie to be freed. Charlie fell into his father's arms, gasping for air."
Severe injuries were clearly visible, the complaint states. He was still breathing, but was pronounced dead later that day "despite the heroic efforts of his family, first responders, doctors and even complete strangers."
Both parents report they were injured trying to free the boy. They also say that "false narratives" emerged in the media suggesting the parents were some how responsible for the boy's death. "Defendants have done nothing to correct the false information," according to the complaint. "As a result, the Holts suffered an injury to their reputation as parents as well as severe emotional distress from observing their 5-year-old son's suffering and death."
The suit states the restaurant was not equipped with any safety mechanism or guard to prevent people from getting dangerously close to the pinch point or becoming trapped.
Jeff Flaherty, a spokesman for parent firm Marriott International Inc., told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the company had no comment.