By Johnny Diaz
As an Indiana family mourns a toddler who fell to her death while aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, they also are seeking answers to how this could have happened.
The incident took place Sunday on the Freedom of the Seas while it was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The girl, who was identified as Chloe Wiegand, was with her grandfather when she fell from the 11th deck of the ship, according to authorities.
The family now has retained maritime attorney Michael Winkleman, of the Miami law firm Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman.
Speaking on behalf of the family Tuesday, he disputes initial police statements that the girl had accidentally slipped from the arms of the grandfather Salvatore Anello when she fell from the window on the deck.
Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman José Carmona had said that the family was gathered in or near a dining hall on the 11th floor and the grandfather sat the toddler on the edge of a window, The Associated Press reported. Officials were investigating whether the window was already opened or if someone had opened it.
At a news conference, Winkleman said the grandfather and girl were in the ship’s water park area called the H2O Zone where he placed the girl onto a wood railing by a wall of windows. “The grandfather didn’t drop the child,” Winkleman said in a statement. “The child fell due to an open glass pane that should have been closed securely.’’
He said the girl had “wanted to bang on the glass like she always did at her older brother’s hockey games. Her grandfather thought there was glass just like everywhere else, but there was not, and she was gone in an instant.”
Winkleman added, “The family needs answers as to why there would be an open window in a wall full of fixed windows in a kids’ play area. Why would you have the danger without any warning, sign, or notice?”
The girl was traveling with her parents, two siblings and two sets of grandparents. The girl’s father is South Bend, Indiana, Police Officer Alan Wiegand, according to the police department.
The family remains in Puerto Rico while authorities continue their investigation.
Owen Torres, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean, said on Tuesday, “We are assisting local authorities in San Juan, PR, as they make inquiries after an incident aboard Freedom of the Seas on Sunday. We do not have further information to share at this point.”