PORT MIAMI, Fla. (WSVN) — A Miami-based lawyer hired by the family of an 18-month-old child who fell to her death while inside a cruise ship said the toddler’s death could have been prevented.
Attorney Michael Winkleman spoke with reporters on behalf of the heartbroken Indiana family, Tuesday, to explain what happened Sunday night.
The family was on board Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas over the weekend while it was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Authorities in Puerto Rico said Chloe Wiegand was with her grandfather when she slipped through his arms, fell 11 stories down and died on impact, but Winkleman said his clients dispute that report.
Winkleman said Wiegand was accompanied by her parents, grandparents and older brother on a vacation from Indiana.
She is said to love looking through windows, as she had been pictured prior to her death looking through a glass window at her brother’s hockey game.
Her grandfather knew this about her and carried her to a wall described as a “wall of windows” on the 11th floor of the ship.
“They’re playing in the play zone, and there’s this wall of all windows. It’s all glass windows,” said Winkleman. “The grandfather thought it was entirely glass. There’s a wood railing right there. He puts her up on there thinking she’s going to bang on the glass and it’s gonna be great.”
But the attorney said the passenger did not realize one of the windows was open.
“He literally thought there was glass there. He thought that she was going to bang on the glass like she was at a hockey game like she loved to do with her brother,” he said. “She goes to bang on the glass and the next thing he knows, she’s gone.”
Newly released pictures show authorities on scene with caution tape blocking off the windowed wall.
“We’ve sometimes had that experience when someone walks into a glass sliding door thinking it’s not there. This is the inverse of that,” said Winkleman, “and it was reasonable for Sam, the grandfather, to think that this was all glass, ’cause from his perspective it was all glass.”
The attorney added it’s possible the child may have opened the window, but he said, in the end, this is a tragic, preventable accident, and he raised questions as to why there was an open window without warning signs.
“I think, when you put them in a kids’ area, where passengers can open them, that when they’re in a wall of windows, it creates a hidden danger unless you warn about it,” he said. “How about a warning? How about a sign? How about something?”
Winkleman is also asking to board the vessel to review surveillance video that allegedly captured the tragic moment she fell.
The Wiegand family remains in Puerto Rico due to the active investigation. They are also trying to get the toddler’s body released to be sent to their hometown.
“They want to get home as quickly as possible to grieve with their family,” said Winkleman. “It is my understanding that Chloe’s body was going to be released today. They were working with the authorities in Puerto Rico, and once that’s all tied up, they want to leave immediately.”
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson said the company is cooperating with authorities and are providing the Wiegands with hotel accommodations while they’re in Puerto Rico. The spokesperson declined to comment on allegations of negligence.
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