The parents of a toddler girl who fell to her death aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship announced Wednesday that they’re officially filing a lawsuit against the cruise line.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Chloe Wiegand, an 18-month-old toddler from Granger, Indiana, was on a cruise with family when she lost her life aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship. The ship was docked in Puerto Rico at the time of the incident, on July 7.
Chloe died after falling from the 11th floor and landing on the hard, concrete surface of the Pan American dock. She was playing with her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, in the children’s H2O Zone children’s water park when she fell from an open window.
Last month, San Juan Investigations Chamber Judge Jimmy Sepúlveda ruled that prosecutors provided probable cause for the arrest of Anello. He’s currently facing a negligent homicide charge.
Chloe’s parents, however, stand behind Anello and claim that the cruise line is the responsible party.
“Mr. Anello was closely supervising Chloe as she played,” the lawsuit stated. “Unknown to Mr. Anello at that time, this was not, in fact, a wall of fixed glass.”
“There was not a single, adequate indication that this wall of glass panes was not actually a wall of fixed glass panes, but instead a wall of glass with glass panes that could actually slide and remain open, as windows. For instance, none of the glass panes, which were mere feet from the kids’ H2O Zone, contained a warning, design decal on the glass, or anything to warn passengers, such as Mr. Anello, of the hidden danger that some of the glass pane windows in the middle row may be slid open.”
Anello couldn’t tell if there was glass because wooden rail, which measures around 18 inches from the glass wall, the lawsuit says. Anello lifted his granddaughter at her request. He planned to let her bang on the glass, as she had done many times before at her brothers’ hockey games.
“She slipped from Mr. Anello’s arms, falling through the open pane and down approximately 150 feet below,” the lawsuit said.
“This is not some freak accident,” family lawyer Michael Winkleman told NBC News. “This is something that was a preventable accident…These windows are entirely not compliant with the standard for windows on cruise ships.”
“Carnival and [Norwegian Cruise Line] and even newer Royal Caribbean cruise ships have windows that are wholly compliant with these window fall prevention codes.”
Winkleman didn’t give an exact amount in damages the family is seeking. Instead, he told DailyMail that determining the amount is one of his hardest jobs as an attorney, in cases that involve the death of a child.
“One of the hardest things in my job is to put a figure on grief. And how can you possibly do that in the death of a child? Four simple words – caution these windows open – and we wouldn’t be talking about this. A sticker, a decal with the Royal Caribbean logo, anything, and Chloe is still with us.”
The family is scheduled to file the lawsuit in Miami. Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Chloe Wiegand/Family Handout]