The grief-stricken mother of a toddler who died after falling through an open window on a cruise ship while being held by her grandfather has said there were “a million things” the cruise line could have done to prevent the tragedy.
Eighteen-month-old Chloe Wiegand, from Indiana, US, fell 150 feet to her death earlier this month on board Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas onto a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
During an interview on NBC's The Today Show, Kimberly Wiegand insisted "there are a million things that could've been done to make that safer" and spoke of the family’s plans to sue Royal Caribbean for "not having a safer situation on the 11th floor of that cruise ship."
Wiegand said: “I know my mom was asking people, 'Why on earth is there a window open on the 11th floor without a screen or anything?'”
The family's attorney, Michael Winkleman, has contested a Puerto Rico police report that said Chloe’s grandfather, Salvatore 'Sam' Anello, dropped the toddler out of the window.
The Wiegand family claim that Chloe had asked her grandfather to lift her to a “wall of windows” that lined the play area in the "kid’s water zone" on the 11th floor, so that she could bang on the glass – something, the family says, she loved to do at home and at her older brother’s hockey games.
The window on the 11th floor, however, had been slid open and the Indianna toddler went straight through it, plunging 11 storeys and letting out a "blood curdling" scream. Witnesses have reported hearing a “cry of pain” from Mr Anello following the tragedy.
Kimberly Wiegand told NBC: "When they told me Chloe had died, I didn't know she went out a window. I just saw Sam standing next to the wall of windows, screaming and banging on it and there was like somebody trying to stop me.
“I just kept saying, 'Take me to my baby. Where is my baby?
"I didn't know she had gone out the window. Then I looked over, and it wasn't water beneath, it was concrete. To lose our baby this way is just unfathomable.
“I never want another mother to have to experience what I had to, to see what I had to see or scream or how I had to scream."
The Wiegands are supporting Mr Anello – and have released a picture of Chloe leaning on a see-through barrier at a hockey rink – insisting blame lies with Royal Caribbean.
Lawyer Mr Winkleman said: “Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kid's area?"
The catastrophe was caught on camera although Mr Winkleman claims Royal Caribbean has refused to allow him to view the footage. He said: “I'm extremely anxious to watch the video because there will be nothing obviously more definitive to show what actually happened.”
Kimberly and her husband Alan were one day into a week-long Caribbean cruise with both sets of grandparents, when Chloe died. The family had been expecting to visit San Juan, St Maarten, St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados but was forced to stay in Puerto Rico for several days after the incident, while authorities investigated before being able to return home with Chloe's body.
A Royal Caribbean official said in a statement: "We are deeply saddened by this incident and our hearts go out to the family. We have assisted the authorities in San Juan with their inquiries and they are the appropriate people to address further questions."