Official: Girl’s death probe includes cruise line scrutiny

National News

FILE – This May 11, 2006 file photo shows the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship docked in Bayonne, N.J. Police in Puerto Rico say that on Sunday, July 7, 2019, a toddler apparently slipped from her grandfather’s hands and fell to her death on this cruise ship, Freedom of the Seas, while docked in Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Mike Derer, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities investigating an 18-month-old Indiana girl’s fatal fall from an open window on a cruise ship in Puerto Rico said Thursday they are considering many options, including the culpability of the cruise line.

As Chloe Wiegand’s family accompanied the toddler’s body home to Indiana, Puerto Rico’s Public Security Secretary Elmer Román said “multiple angles” are being looked at in her death, including possible negligence by Royal Caribbean Cruises.

“That is part of the investigation. Once the result is determined, we will report,” Román said, adding that exploring numerous possibilities is “part of the process” in such investigations.

Attorney Michael Winkleman has challenged a Puerto Rico police report that Chloe apparently slipped from her grandfather’s hands Sunday as he held her out of an 11th-story window on the Freedom of the Seas. He has said she fell from a window that was inexplicably left open in a children’s play area.

Winkleman said Chloe’s family flew Thursday morning from the U.S. island territory to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and boarded a flight to Chicago with the toddler’s body. He didn’t say which of the girl’s relatives were on the flights. Chloe had been on the cruise with her parents, two siblings and her two sets of grandparents.

A hearse with a police escort took them to their home in Granger, Indiana. Chloe’s father is police officer in nearby South Bend.

“The family is relieved to be heading home so that they can grieve as a family and begin funeral preparations,” Winkleman said in a statement. “The boundless positive thoughts and prayers they’ve received have been a ray of hope in this difficult time.”

Román said he didn’t know if the child’s parents had been interviewed as part of the investigation, but said they were free to leave Puerto Rico. He said prosecutors have interviewed the grandparents.

The Associated Press left a message Thursday seeking comment from the cruise line.

Winkleman has said the window should have been closed securely and that he sees grounds for the family to file a civil lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises.

The cruise line said Wednesday that it is assisting San Juan authorities in their investigation. The company called the girl’s death a tragic incident in a statement Monday and said it was helping the family.

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John Rice in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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