Parents blame Royal Caribbean for toddler's death after 11-story fall

Vic Ryckaert

The parents of a Northern Indiana toddler who fell 11 stories from a Royal Caribbean ship say the cruise line is responsible for the girl's death.

"I never want another mother to see what I had to see, or to scream how I had to scream," Kimberly Wiegand said during an interview that aired Monday on NBC's "The Today Show."

Wiegand and her husband, Alan, spoke to the media for the first time since the July 7 death of 18-month-old Chloe in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Chloe Wiegand, 1, died July 7, 2019, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after falling from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

"We have a lot of questions," Wiegand said. "Primarily, why was there an open window in a kids' play area 11 stories off the ground?"

Police initially said Chloe's grandfather, Salvatore Anello of Valparaiso, told officers he lost his grip while holding the girl outside a window on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship, according to the Associated Press.

Michael Winkleman, the family's lawyer, said Anello sat Chloe on a railing in a play area near what he believed was a closed window.

Chloe Wiegand, 1, died July 7, 2019, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after falling from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

"Her grandfather thought there was glass just like everywhere else," Winkleman said in a statement, "but there was not, and she was gone in an instant."

The boat was at the dock at the time of the accident. The child fell 11 stories, landing on concrete.

"There are a million things that could have been done to make it safer," Wiegand said. "Get a fan. Come up with some other mechanism to make people comfortable."

Chloe Wiegand, 1, died July 7, 2019, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after falling from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Chloe's family lives in Granger, Indiana.

They described Chloe as a happy, playful child who loved watching her brother play hockey and gardening with her mother. Chloe, her mom said, could make anyone smile.

Her father, Alan Wiegand, is an officer with the South Bend Police Department.

"We'll never forget her," Alan said during Monday's interview. "She's part of our soul."

A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman told IndyStar Monday they are assisting police in San Juan with the investigation and "they are the appropriate people to address further questions."

"We are deeply saddened by this incident, and our hearts go out to the family," Royal Caribbean's Melissa Charbonneau said in an email.

The Puerto Rico Department of Justice said the investigation has reached the advanced stages and declined to comment, "The Today Show" reported.

Grandfather of toddler: In cruise ship death thought window was closed, lawyer says

Daughter of South Bend police officer: fatally falls from cruise ship in Puerto Rico

Everything we need to know: About the death of an Indiana toddler on a cruise ship

Call IndyStar reporter Vic Ryckaert at 317-444-2701. Follow him on Twitter: @VicRyc.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Royal Caribbean toddler death: Parents say cruise line responsible