A California family is suing Hyatt Hotels over the death of their 1-year-old son, who fell nine stories to his death in 2021.
Nico Carter died on Oct. 11, 2021 after tumbling through “an open, unprotected floor-level window that was missing its pane” at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, according to documents filed in California Southern District Court that were obtained show.
The toddler’s father, James Carter, explains that he and his son were standing on a balcony area attached to the common area of their floor when the boy fell through the opening.
Nico was set to celebrate his second birthday about two weeks after the trip was scheduled to end, according to his father. Now, he and his wife Anastasia Duboshina are seeking justice.
“We just feel like it’s just a tragedy to have him taken from us in the manner he did, especially with something so preventable,” James says.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, a Hyatt spokesperson says Hyatt has worked “closely” with Playa Hotels and Resorts “in an effort to ensure a complete and transparent investigation since this tragedy occurred in October 2021.”
“The safety and security of guests continues to be our highest priority, and our hearts remain with the family following this unimaginable loss,” the spokesperson adds.
Hyatt purchased the property in 2014 after it was run by a separate entity for 45 years, according to the lawsuit. However, the company has argued that it does not directly own or run the Hyatt Ziva. Instead, the company has claimed the property is operated by Playa Resorts Management Mexico while still using the Hyatt logo.
On the day of the fatal fall, Nico and his father James were waiting in the elevator bay area on their floor when Nico approached “what appeared to be a balcony area with safety glass panels,” according to the suit.
The couple explains that Duboshina was packing a bag before they headed down to the beach and pool area to spend some leisure time together.
Duboshina exited their room “at the exact moment of Nico’s fall” and “heard a loud, guttural scream from her husband just a short distance away,” the lawsuit stated. At that point, “she immediately realized something horrible had happened to Nico.”
“I’ve never heard anything like that before,” Duboshina explains. “And my heart dropped. I knew something terrible happened. … That’s how my life changed.”
The next several days were a “whirlwind” for the grieving couple. James says he and Duboshina were “immediately” whisked away to visit the morgue, get their son’s death certificate and more.
The couple stayed one more night — in the exact same hotel where the incident occurred — before going home. James says they had to leave Nico in Mexico “for a little over a week.”
Instead of planning for Nico’s second birthday, his parents suddenly found themselves planning his funeral. “You go from having a good time to just, a complete 180,” James says.
“It still feels surreal,” Duboshina explains. “I still cannot accept the fact that he’s gone. Like how is it possible we’re still alive and he’s not here with us?”
Before booking their trip, Nico’s parents “wanted to make sure their stay would be a safe and enjoyable experience,” and selected Hyatt after receiving numerous emails from the company “touting Hyatt’s pedigree and status as a luxury hotelier,” according to the lawsuit.
Based on the promotions, the couple — “frequent Hyatt guests in the United States and World of Hyatt loyalty members” — believed Hyatt “would provide safe accommodations” consistent with its brand, per the lawsuit.
Nico’s parents are now suing for an unspecified amount of damages. They also hope their lawsuit will help prevent a similar tragedy in the future, as well.
“I really hope that our tragedy will prevent future tragedies,” Duboshina tells PEOPLE. “Maybe the hotel industry will take it more seriously.”
“If we can kind of draw attention to it and help save another life — whether it’s an adult or a child or anybody — when you go through what we went through, we don’t want it to happen again,” James adds.