A photo from the 11th deck inside the cruise ship where a one-year-old girl fell to her death reveals how easily the toddler’s grandfather could have missed a “hidden hole” in a wall of closed windows, her family’s lawyer said.
Toddler Chloe Wiegand, from the US, was onboard the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas cruise ship with her family on Sunday when she plummeted 45 metres to her death as the vessel was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The family’s lawyer Michael Winkleman refuted local police's Monday statement that Chloe apparently slipped from her grandfather's hands as he was holding her out of an 11th-deck window on the Freedom of the Seas.
He told a press conference the incident was “not like the Michael Jackson story where he was dangling the child out the window”.
Winkleman instead argued the grandfather, Salvatore Anello, had placed the child on a railing, and not noticing the pane of glass in the “wall of windows” which was pulled back, Chloe fell through a “hidden” gaping hole.
The photo shared by Winkleman from the resulting crime scene shows the barely noticeable open window surrounded by police tape and investigators.
“You have a wall of windows with one hidden hole,” he said.
During the press conference, the lawyer questioned why the window was left open in the area where “kids are meant to be” and stressed Royal Caribbean should be held accountable.
“We’ve come to learn, that... passengers can open these windows.” he said.
“Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kid’s area?
Winkleman said there were federal laws and standards that ensured this type of incident didn’t occur.
“Things like using screens, things like using grids, things like limiting the amount that a window can open.”
He said the ship was one of Royal Caribbean’s older vessels from 2006 and that newer ships didn’t have windows that could be opened in a similar manner.
“Why would you ever in a kid’s play area put windows that passengers can open?”
Winkleman earlier revealed the grandfather lifted the girl up to window so she could bang on the glass in a way she previously enjoyed doing so at her brothers’ hockey games.
In the wake of Chloe’s death, Royal Caribbean released a statement on the incident saying they were "deeply saddened by [the] 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.”
The company has yet to respond to Winkleman’s comments.
Investigations into Chloe’s death are ongoing, which Royal Caribbean confirmed they were continuing to assist with on Wednesday (local time).
‘Terrible’ 72 hours for Chloe Wiegand’s family
Chloe’s parents, Alan and Kimberly, her two siblings and her two sets of grandparents plan to fly home on Thursday (local time) to northern Indiana to arrange her funeral and grieve, Winkleman said.
"Their singular goal right now is to get home and start working on funeral arrangements," he said on Wednesday evening.
"They're absolutely devastated. It's been a terrible 72 hours stuck in Puerto Rico and they're desperate to get home as soon as possible so they can grieve as a family."
Anello and Chloe’s parents were reportedly sedated following the incident as they struggled to comprehend her death.
Winkleman said Anello was “crying hysterically” following the incident he described as “preventable”.
He said the family hopes Chloe's body, which authorities have released to relatives, can also be on Thursday's return flight from San Juan to the US, but he said they were still working through red tape on Wednesday to make sure that can happen.
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