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)
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Family of girl killed in cruise ship fall to return home

12 Comments
By RICK CALLAHAN

An Indiana couple whose 18-month-old daughter fell to her death Sunday from the 11th story of a cruise ship hope to return home Thursday from Puerto Rico on a flight also carrying their youngest child's body, an attorney for the family said.

Chloe Wiegand's parents, her two siblings and her two sets of grandparents planned to fly home Thursday to northern Indiana to arrange her funeral and grieve, said Michael Winkleman, a Miami-based attorney who's representing the family.

"Their singular goal right now is to get home and start working on funeral arrangements," he said 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."

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 U.S., but he said they were still working through red tape Wednesday to make sure that can happen.

Winkleman has challenged Puerto Rico police's Monday statement that Chloe apparently slipped from her grandfather's hands as he was holding her out of an 11th-floor window on the Freedom of the Seas.

Winkleman said Tuesday that she plunged from a window that had been inexplicably left open in a children's play area. He said the Granger, Indiana, toddler was playing with her grandfather in the "kid's water zone" on the ship as it was docked in Puerto Rico when she asked him to lift her to a wall of windows lining the play area.

The toddler wanted to bang on the glass "like she always did at her older brother's hockey games," Winkleman said Tuesday. "Her grandfather thought there was glass just like everywhere else, but there was not, and she was gone in an instant."

Winkleman said that window should have been closed securely and he sees grounds for the family to file a civil lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises. He said the family is still seeking surveillance video from the area of the ship where Chloe fell to her death.

Police in Puerto Rico declined to comment Tuesday on Winkleman's account of the events leading up to the child's fatal fall.

Police had no immediate comment Wednesday on their investigation into the girl's death.

Winkleman said the girl's father, Alan Wiegand, who's a police officer in South Bend, Indiana, was interviewed Wednesday by police investigating his youngest child's death. He said that other relatives have also been interviewed by police on the U.S. island territory.

Royal Caribbean Cruises called the girl's death a tragic incident in a statement Monday and said it was helping the family. The cruise line has not commented on Winkleman's statements about the circumstances of the girl's death.

Royal Caribbean Cruises spokesman Owen Torres said in a statement Wednesday that the company continues assisting local authorities in San Juan in their investigation.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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We might even get a third story before its finally decided what actually happened. First the press insisted she fell out of her grandmother's hands from a balcony. Now the story is she fell out an open window while in the care of her grandfather. Its amazing journalists can even keep their jobs like this, but somehow, they do. I would probably never make it running a news media organization because by the looks of it, competent journalists are either impossible to find or not appreciated by the readers.

Anyway it sounds like the grandfather is totally at fault here. Ship windows open for a reason. You don't put kids on ledges in the first place and if you do, you don't watch from a distance. Even if the windows were latched, kids have hands and can unlatch them.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

It is a terrible tragedy, but people off on a cruise vacation, are more focused on fun, than safety. I remember one cruise I took, they had drinks before dinner, then a bottle of champagne with dinner, then a reception at a disco bar with even more free drinks. I had to wave the staff off, no more drinks. Getting blasted on a cruise ship is not a good idea, because you are more susceptible to dangerous accidents on a ship. But when you are on vacation, common sense often evaporates. I am not blaming anyone, these things happen. We're all human and make mistakes. I pray for the family and their tragic loss. God be with you!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

So, Gramps accidentally (or not) defenestrates his nephew, and the family plan to sue the ship as the window wasn't closed? Are they for real? Why wasn't he arrested?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

how this family can be this careless ? do they understand what having kids mean ? sometimes you wonder why they have kids that they cant take care of them, what a nightmare family

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This sounds like a GoFundMe adventure. Poor kid.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Goodness what a tragedy. But, to sue the ship? It was a tragedy but to drag it through the court for money. Grieve and time will heal.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've cruised on that exact ship. I don't remember the "kid's water zone" specifically, but there is safety plexiglass every where someone should be.

This is a terrible accident. I can't see how the cruise line would be responsible.

https://www.tripsavvy.com/royal-caribbean-freedom-of-the-seas-4119825 has some photos of the H2O Zone, which is probably the area. This ship is for extended families with lots entertainment for all ages. When I cruised, alcohol was not included, except 1-2 glasses of wine with the formal diners.

Pro Tip: If you cruise on this sort of ship, arrive as early as possible on departure day with your swimsuit and get to the Flowrider or Rock Wall ASAP before any lines start. The flowrider takes a little practice. All the fun stuff is open while in port.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

training their 18 month old daughter to “band on the glass” at a hockey game was their first mistake.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Terrible tragedy. Can you imagine the pain and grief the family is going through?

It seems not.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Strangerland If they reported differently, it would not have been a mistake. If they heard a story from a poor source, they should admit that clearly in the article, such as "One woman we talked to, who was not a witness to the accident, heard from another passenger that the girl slipped from her grandmother's arms and fell off a balcony. But we have been unable to confirm that rumor. " But they didn't do that. They reported it as fact and they do this all the time. Its very irresponsible.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Here's what the window looks like

From the outside:

https://i2.wp.com/metro.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/PRI_75025737.jpg

From the inside:

https://media.my9nj.com/media.my9nj.com/photo/2019/07/09/Chloe%20side%20by%20side_1562702903015.jpg_7495803_ver1.0_640_360.jpg

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Looking at those pics, it's pretty easy to see how one could think there is a window there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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