The lawyer representing the family of a toddler who died after falling off a cruise ship is blaming the cruise line for the girl’s death. He says the death of Chloe Wiegand, who fell 150 feet out of a window of a cruise ship in Puerto Rico, was a preventable tragic accident.
Michael Winkleman is disputing early reports from local officials that Chloe Wiegand’s grandfather lost his grip on her as he dangled her from a window. Instead, he says, a window on the Royal Caribbean Cruise was left open in a play area, and the grandfather did not realize it until it was too late.
“We’ve all had that experience where someone walks into a glass sliding door thinking it’s not there,” Winkleman said. “This is the inverse of that.”
The attorney for the family of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand says she loved banging on the glass at her brother’s hockey games. That’s why her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, picked her up and sat her on a wooden rail in front of what he thought was a wall of enclosed glass windows, he said.
“He puts her up on there thinking she’s going to bang on the glass and it’s gonna be great, and she goes to bang on the glass, the next thing he knows, she’s gone,” he said.
Chloe fell out the window from the 11th story of the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship on Sunday while it was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican authorities said they are investigating the incident and whether to pursue charges against Anello.
But Winkleman says it’s Royal Caribbean that needs to answer questions. “Why would you ever in a kids play area put windows that passengers can open?” he said, adding “It was reasonable… to think that this was all glass because from his perspective it was all glass.”
The little girl was on the ship with her father, a South Bend, Indiana, police officer, her mother, siblings, and both sets of grandparents. It’s unclear if anyone witnessed the incident.
CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg says investigators will quickly be able to determine what happened on this ship, and that there should be no open windows in children’s play areas.
“Every modern large cruise ship has at least 900 separate digital cameras that are recording 24/7,” Greenberg said. “Somebody goes over the side, they are going to see it and they are going to know where it happened and they’re going to know when it happened.”
Winkleman is hoping to get access to that surveillance video. He says Wiegand’s family is too distraught to speak publicly.
A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told CBS News in a statement that it’s “assisting local authorities in San Juan” and it has no further information to share at this point.