‘Where’s my baby?’ Cruise fall horror

 

The grieving parents of baby Chloe Wiegand, who plunged 45 metres to her death while on board the Royal Caribbean 'Freedom of the Seas' cruise ship, have broken down in their first interview since the "unfathomable" tragedy.

Appearing on the US version of TODAY, Kimberley and her police officer husband Alan Wiegand spoke of their grief and horror during what was supposed to be the family holiday of a lifetime.

Kimberly Wiegand relived the horrific moment she realised her daughter had plunged from an open window to the concrete below when she saw Chloe's grandfather, Sam Anello, crying and banging on the window.

"I didn't know that she went out a window," she said through tears during the interview.

"I just saw Sam standing next to the wall of windows just screaming and banging on it. There was somebody from Royal Caribbean they kept trying to stop me. I just kept saying take me to my baby, where is my baby? I didn't even notice the window," she said.

"I looked over it and it wasn't water down there, it was concrete. Honestly to lose our baby this way is just unfathomable."

 

The couple spoke honestly about the horrific moment they realised their daughter had died and the aftermath, saying Mr Anello had been "very, very distraught" ever since.

"You can barely look at him without him crying, she was his best friend," Alan Wiegand said.

Mrs Wiegand said she holds on to the memory of her daughter who "exuded love" but was forced to relive the tragedy every morning when she woke up.

"The first 30 seconds of the day, I don't remember what happened. And then, it comes back and I relive what happened," she said. "The thing that I latch onto is her memory, she just exuded love."

The grieving parents also said they have a "lot of questions" about her death including "why is there an open window in the kids' play area 11 stories off the ground?"

They said their smiley toddler was "so loved" and enjoyed gardening and watching her brother play hockey.

"She could get anybody to smile… I just know that she was destined to do such great things, but even in her short life, I truly believe she changed so many lives."

Chloe Weigand's parents, Kimberley and Alan during an exclusive interview with NBC’s Today Show in the US.
Chloe Weigand's parents, Kimberley and Alan during an exclusive interview with NBC’s Today Show in the US.

'GONE IN AN INSTANT'

Mr and Mrs Wiegand and their three children were on board the ship in San Juan in Puerto Rico along with both sets of grandparents, including Kimberley's father Salvatore Anello when the tragedy occured.

The Wiegand family travelled from Indiana to cruise around the Southern Caribbean islands - a journey that started and ended in the harbourside town of San Juan in Puerto Rico, stopping at St Maarten, Dominica and even Barbados.

But before the ship had even left the port, the unimaginable happened. Chloe, just 18 months old, fell from an open window and plunged 45 metres on to the concrete dock below.

Playing in the "kid's water zone" on the 11th floor of the cruise ship with her grandfather, Mr Anello, little Chloe reportedly asked him to lift her to a "wall of windows" which lined the play area.

According to The Guardian, Mr Anello propped his granddaughter on a wooden railing that ran the length of the window wall, believing there was closed glass behind Chloe like there was in the rest of the room.

Tragically, the window behind the toddler - a "hidden hole" surrounded by closed glass - had been opened. And in a moment of horror, Chloe went through the window and plunged 11 storeys to her death.

Police attend to scene on the cruise ship after the incident on Sunday 7 July 2019. Picture: Attorney Michael Winkleman
Police attend to scene on the cruise ship after the incident on Sunday 7 July 2019. Picture: Attorney Michael Winkleman

'WHY WAS IT OPEN?'

In the moments following the tragedy, witnesses heard a "cry of pain" and wails of agony from Mr Anello and several other family members on board the ship.

According to local media outlet El Vocero, some were so hysterical after Chloe's death that they had to be sedated by medics.

Maritime lawyer Michael Winkleman, who is representing the Wiegand family, said Chloe fell through an open glass pane on the cruise ship, adding that her grandfather thought the window was closed "just like everywhere else" in the kids play area on the ship.

Chloe Wiegand toddler death on cruise ship. Picture: The Sun
Chloe Wiegand toddler death on cruise ship. Picture: The Sun

Pinning the blame on Royal Caribbean, Mr Winkleman questioned why a single window was open in a child's play area.

"The family needs answers as to why there would be an open window in a wall full of fixed windows in a kids' play area? Why would you have the danger without any warning, sign, or notice?" Mr Winkleman argued.

"Essentially her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where he thinks that there is glass there because it's clear, but it turns out there was no glass there.

"She goes to bang on the glass like she would have at one of those hockey rinks, and the next thing you know, she's gone."

Following the tragedy, questions around whether Mr Anello negligence lead to Chloe's death were quickly diffused by the family. Mr Winkleman hit back at the suggestion that Mr Anello was acting irresponsibly.

"There was absolutely no alcohol involved, Sam is not a drinker," he said.

According to The Sun, if negligence charges are filed they will carry a maximum of three years behind bars.

Chloe Wiegand's parents Kimberly and Alan
Chloe Wiegand's parents Kimberly and Alan

MISSING PIECE COULD SOLVE MYSTERY

Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman Jose Carmona said the Wiegand family was gathered in or near a dining hall at the time of the incident, and that Mr Anello had sat Chloe on the edge of a window before she fell.

Mr Carmona said it remained unclear whether the window was already open or if someone opened it.

In an interview with news.com.au, the family's lawyer Mr Winkleman said the answer lies in security footage which could play as a key piece to the puzzle that would answer why the window was open - and who opened it.

Toddler Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from a window on Royal Caribbean cruise ship Freedom of the Seas. Picture: Attorney Michael Winkleman
Toddler Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from a window on Royal Caribbean cruise ship Freedom of the Seas. Picture: Attorney Michael Winkleman

"Our early investigation revealed that these windows were not up to applicable safety codes designed precisely to protect children from falling out of windows," Mr Winkleman told news.com.au.

"RCCL has not yet shared the CCTV footage with us despite repeated request. The next step (for the family) is getting the family home and having the funeral. For me, the next step is getting access to the that CCTV footage.

"If Royal will not provide in the short term then we will be forced to file the lawsuit in order to obtain the footage because we are indisputably entitled to it.

"I think there is going to be blame and significant blame on the cruise line and I'm going to do everything I can to hold them accountable for what appears to be negligence."

When contacted by news.com.au, a spokesperson for RCCL said they were unable to comment on any information regarding the footage, but said they were "deeply saddened" by the "tragic incident".

Toddler Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from a window on Royal Caribbean cruise ship Freedom of the Seas. Picture: Attorney Michael Winkleman
Toddler Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from a window on Royal Caribbean cruise ship Freedom of the Seas. Picture: Attorney Michael Winkleman

"We are assisting local authorities in San Juan, PR, as they make inquiries after an incident aboard Freedom of the Seas on Sunday.

"We do not have further information to share at this point."

Miami-based maritime lawyer Jim Walker says proving negligence won't be an easy feat for the family.

"In order for a cruise line to be legally liable for this child's death, the family's lawyer must prove that the cruise line acted unreasonably and that the cruise line knew or should have known of the specific danger on its ship," he told news.com.au.

"This will be an exceedingly difficult burden for the lawyer to meet in this very sad and tragic set of circumstances.

"Without evidence (prior incidents or proof that the cruise line knew of a dangerous condition on the cruise ship) the chances are slim that the court (if suit is filed) would permit this case to proceed to a jury trial," he added.



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