Indiana toddler died in cruise ship fall after grandpa thought window was closed: Attorney


Via: ABC News
By Joshua Hoyos and Christine Theodorou

An Indiana toddler had a fatal fall from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship after her grandfather put her up on a railing, thinking the glass window was closed, according to the family’s attorney.

Chloe Wiegand, who was 18 months old, was traveling with her grandparents and parents on the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas when she fell to her death on Sunday, according to her parent’s attorney, Michael Winkleman.

Chloe was with her grandfather in the children’s water park play area when her grandfather put her on a wood railing in front of a wall of glass windows, Winkleman said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Chloe was a hockey fan and loved to bang on the ice hockey rink glass wall as she watched her older brother, Winkleman said, and her grandfather put her on the railing thinking she’d bang on the glass.

Winkleman told ABC News they are waiting to see closed circuit TV footage of the fall, and have yet to determine whether a lawsuit will be filed.

“The singular reason they hired me to start was to help with the truth to get out there, because there was a lot of misinformation being spread on the Internet and various sources,” Winkleman told ABC News in an interview Tuesday night. “But of course, my primary role as their advocate and the attorney, is to help them seek justice for what happened to Chloe.”

“And if that means filing a lawsuit against them, that’s certainly something that is in the playbook of options,” he added.

However, the window was open — and she was “gone,” Winkleman said, calling her death a “tragic accident that was preventable.”

“Why would you ever in a kids play area put windows that passengers can open?” Winkleman said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to put a child there thinking there’s glass.”

The Wiegand family had not opened the window and do not know who opened it, Winkleman said.

The cruise ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the time, according to the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety. The Puerto Rico prosecutor has been conducting interviews.

Chloe’s autopsy has been completed, and her remains were sent to a funeral home selected by the family on Tuesday.

“The Department of Justice will continue working on the investigation of this case with the rigor it demands,” a spokesperson for the Puerto Rico Department of Justice said in a statement.

The investigation into the child’s death is being handled by Puerto Rico Police, and the San Juan attorney general’s office.

Chloe was the daughter of a South Bend, Indiana, police officer, according to the department, and Chloe’s parents are “beside themselves,” Winkleman said.

“The South Bend Police Department offers its sincerest condolences to Officer Alan Wiegand and his family during this difficult time following the tragic loss of their child while in Puerto Rico,” the department said in a statement. “The department asks the community to pray for the entire Wiegand family as they grieve and to respect their privacy.”

South Bend Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg added on Twitter, “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.”

Owen Torres, corporate communications manager with Royal Caribbean, said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family. We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need.”

Torres added on Tuesday, “We are assisting local authorities in San Juan, PR, as they make inquiries.”