By Drew Weisholtz
Chloe Wiegand died after falling out an 11th-story window of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, but could the tragedy have been averted?
The family of a 1-year-old girl who died after she fell more than 10 stories from a cruise ship in Puerto Rico onto a concrete dock is shedding some light on what happened.
Initial reports from police indicated Chloe Wiegand fell out of her grandfather’s arms from aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. But her family is disputing that account.
Michael Winkleman, a Miami-based attorney hired by Chloe’s family, said her grandfather put the girl on a ledge near a window in a children’s area, but was unaware that the window was open.
“Essentially her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where he thinks that there is glass there because it’s clear, but it turns out there was no glass there,” he said. “She goes to bang on the glass like she would have at one of those hockey rinks, and the next thing you know, she’s gone.”
Winkleman, who said Chloe enjoyed being by windows to see what was happening on the other side, said Royal Caribbean should’ve known better.
“Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kids area?” he said. “I mean, why would you have that kind of a hidden danger without any warning, without any sign, without any notice?”
Royal Caribbean did not mention any allegations of negligence, saying it is “deeply saddened” and “our hearts go out to the family.”
“We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need,” the company said in a statement. “Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident.”
Winkleman said Royal Caribbean is completely at fault.
“I do think there is going to be blame and significant blame on the cruise line, and I will do everything I can to hold them accountable, for what appears to me to be negligence,” Winkleman said.
Despite this accident, the Cruise Lines International Association said overboard incidents have decreased 35% over the last decade, even as capacity has increased 55%. About two dozen people fall overboard annually.
The cruise ship has since left for a weeklong trip through the Caribbean, while Chloe’s family remains in Puerto Rico as an investigation into her death begins.
Chloe’s father is a police officer in South Bend, Indiana. Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg expressed his condolences, as did the police department.
“We are saddened by the terrible accident that took the life of Officer Wiegand’s young daughter, and the city is holding this family in our hearts,” Buttigieg wrote.