Witness accounts are emerging of the scene that erupted when a 5-year-old Charlotte boy died after a freak accident inside an Atlanta rotating restaurant. They paint a picture of chaos as his family, staff and patrons worked to free Charlie Holt.
Media outlets in Atlanta say the boy was just feet from his parents when it happened at 3 p.m. Friday. He wandered across an aisle to another table and rounded a bench backed up against a wall. There, his head got stuck in a 5-inch gap between the furniture and a wall as the restaurant’s floor rotated in the opposite direction.
“We heard a bunch of screams and people yelling and we didn’t know what was going on,” Gustavo Anzola told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We didn’t know if it was a robbery or someone with a gun.”
There was a loud boom, Anzola told the Journal-Constitution, and the famous rotating floor stopped. He then heard a boy’s cries and someone scream: “We need people to push!”
“It was only his head stuck, nothing else,” Anzola told the Journal-Constitution. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
WSB-TV in Atlanta says the family’s waiter jumped a staircase and shut off the rotation device, rather than relying on an automatic sensory shut-off. That allowed rescuers to rip a chair from the floor and reach the boy, it was reported.
“People acted heroically,” Sgt. Warren Pickard of the Atlanta police told WSB. “They tried to rescue the kid.”
As many as six people pulled at the table that was trapping the boy, while a friend of Anzola’s used another piece of furniture as a lever, the Journal-Constitution reported.
Holt lost consciousness and “a few seconds later, he fell into his dad’s arms,” Anzola told the Journal-Constitution.
The boy’s father attempted CPR before paramedics and police officers arrived, it was reported. Some media outlets are reporting it took as long as a half hour to free the boy, who died about 4:30 p.m. Friday at an Atlanta hospital.
As of Wednesday morning, a Web site for the restaurant said it remains “temporarily closed.”
A funeral date has not yet been announced for Charlie, who turned 5 on March 22.
His family released a statement Tuesday saying they have created a Charlie Holt Memorial Fund to preserve his memory and to allow children to fulfill their dreams, including scholarships. Charlie’s parents also made their first public comments about their son:
“Charlie Holt was the sweetest, most accepting and lovable child who had a hug for everyone. He never met a person or an animal whom he did not immediately love. Everyone was his friend. His thirst for knowledge and adventure was infectious. Everyone so loved sweet little Charlie.”
The boy’s death made international news and ignited a social media discussion on parenting and tragedy.
Woman’s Day weighed in on Monday.
“When I spot devastating stories like this one in my Facebook news feed, I instinctively try to convince myself that something like this could never happen to me even though I know that’s not true …,” said writer Lauren Matthews in Woman’s Day. “Otherwise, I’d have to fully digest the fact that I live in a world where my husband and I might take our son out to lunch, and he could wind up dead. But the reality is that this was a freak accident.”
The women’s issues website YourTango.com wrote an open letter to the boy’s parents under the headline: “To The Parents Of The 5 Year-Old Who Was Crushed In The Revolving Restaurant – I’m Sorry.”
“I can’t imagine the grief you are going through. Every day of my parenting life, I worry that something is going to happen out of my control that takes my little boy from me and it makes me sick. … I know you loved that child. I know you were raising him to be a good boy. And I know you’ll never get over this no matter how many cards, flowers, or letters you receive. … THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.”