By David J. Neal
An open window that should have been closed in a water-play area caused the death of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, a Miami attorney representing the toddler’s family alleged.
“Why are you going to have this hidden danger in the middle of a kids play area?” asked Michael Winkleman of Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman.
Asked about the window, Royal Caribbean spokesman Owen Torres said in an email to the Miami Herald: “We are assisting local authorities in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 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.”
Winkleman, acting as spokesman for the family from South Bend, Indiana, said he has talked with Royal Caribbean and wants to see as much video as possible.
“It’s more about getting answers, but there are more questions right now,” he said.
What’s not in dispute is Chloe, with her family on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas while it was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was in grandfather Sam Anello’s grasp Sunday morning before she fell 11 stories to her death. But Winkleman said it wasn’t as if Chloe’s grandfather was dangling the child and dropped her.
Chloe and Anello were in the boat’s H2O Zone, an area of hot tubs, but mostly pools, water shooters and color schemes that beckon more to children. Columns of three window panes border two sides of the area with a wood rail running parallel to the bottom of the middle panes.
“Chloe has a 10-year-old older brother who plays hockey and she loves to bang on the glass,” Winkleman said.
Anello held Chloe on the rail and she leaned forward to bang on the middle glass pane. But, Winkleman said, Anello didn’t realize the middle pane wasn’t closed and very clean, but had been opened from the inside. When Chloe threw herself forward, there was no glass, and physics yanked her from her grandfather’s grasp.
“We’ve all seen where someone walks into glass thinking there’s nothing there,” Winkleman said. “This is the reverse of that.”