They say their son, Charlie, died because of negligence on the part of Marriott International, which owns the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel where the restaurant is located, and others connected to the business.
“If Marriott had acted responsibly in the face of this known safety hazard, this tragedy would have been prevented,” Joe Fried, the family’s attorney, said in a statement. “Marriott should not have waited for this tragedy before acting to correct this hazard, especially while it held itself out as a safe place for kids.”
The lawsuit also names as defendants Marriott subsidiary Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, along with several employees. Additionally, it names several architects and contractors involved in a recent renovation of the restaurant, saying they failed to take appropriate actions to warn about the “pinch points.”
A spokesman from Marriott didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post. But in an email, Jeff Flaherty, spokesman for Marriott, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Due to the pending litigation, we are not commenting on the matter.”
The Sun Dial, an upscale restaurant and cocktail bar, is situated 700 feet above ground on the 72nd floor of what was once Atlanta’s tallest tower. It rotates about once an hour, offering diners a panoramic view of the city.
The Holts were visiting Atlanta from Charlotte with Charlie and their 2-year-old daughter on April 14. They went to the Georgia Aquarium, then walked to the Peachtree Plaza to have lunch at the Sun Dial. A hostess seated them at a table near the window, on the rotating platform.
Police initially said Charlie had wandered from the family’s table at some point and got pinned between the restaurant’s floor and wall. They also told local media that the floor shut off automatically when he got stuck in the gap.
The parents’ lawsuit offers a different sequence of events.
As the family ate on the rotating platform, they could walk a clear, unobstructed path to the interior of the restaurant, according to the complaint. But by the end of their meal, the platform had rotated, bringing them closer to the stationary interior wall.
When they got up to leave, Charlie walked ahead of his parents, but the interior wall blocked his path. “Charlie was too short to see past the booth and did not appreciate the danger until it was too late,” the lawsuit says. “He was trapped in the pinch point.”
“To Michael’s and Rebecca’s horror,” it adds, “the rotation did not automatically stop when Charlie got trapped.”
The parents tried desperately to free their son. Rebecca pulled at his arms and could “feel the force of the impact Charlie’s body made with the platform, interior wall, and booth,” reads the complaint. Michael threw his body against the booth to move it, but it was bolted to the floor.
The box that controlled the restaurant’s rotation was mounted to the ceiling in a separate room, according to the complaint, which alleges that staff weren’t properly trained in how to deal with such an emergency.
Several agonizing minutes passed. The platform stopped rotating, but the parents and numerous bystanders struggled to free the boy, according to the complaint. Finally, they moved the booth just enough to pull him out. He was bloodied and his head had been crushed.
Michael and Rebecca say they were both injured trying to save their son. Charlie died at the hospital later in the day.
“What started out as the best family trip turned into the worst nightmare that no parent should ever have to face,” Rebecca Holt said in a statement through the family attorney.
The lawsuit criticizes news media accounts that suggested the Holts “somehow failed to properly supervise Charlie.”
“The family has filed this lawsuit to set the record straight about what happened,” their attorney said, “and to make sure, to the best of their abilities, that no other family ever has to suffer the same fate.”
Around the time of Charlie’s death, his parents established a memorial fund in his name to benefit other children. “Charlie was the sweetest, most accepting, and lovable child who had a hug for everyone,” his parents wrote. “Everyone was his friend. His thirst for knowledge and adventure was infectious. Everyone so loved sweet little Charlie.”
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