The parents of a toddler who fell from an open cruise ship window are publicly faulting the cruise line for their daughter’s death.
“We obviously blame them,” Kimberly Wiegand told NBC News’s “Today” show in an interview that aired Monday. “There are a million things that could have been done to make that safer.”
Her daughter, 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand, died July 7 after falling from the 11th deck of Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas onto the concrete below when the ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The family from Granger, Ind., was on a Caribbean cruise with both sets of grandparents.
The family’s attorney said Chloe’s grandfather, identified by authorities as Salvatore Anello, placed the toddler on a railing next to what he thought was a glass window in a children’s water play area. But the window had been opened, and Chloe tumbled out of it.
“He was extremely hysterical,” Kimberly Wiegand said, who referred to Anello as Sam. “The thing that he has repeatedly told us is, ‘I believed that there was glass.’ He will cry over and over. At no point ever, ever, has Sam ever put our kids in danger.”
During the six-minute segment, Kimberly Wiegand and her husband, Alan Wiegand, described the anguish of discovering how their child had died — circumstances she described as “unfathomable” — and questioned why there was an open window in a children’s play area so high off the ground.
According to Kimberly Wiegand, workers on the ship said the window was open because the area needed ventilation.
“To that I say, get a fan, come up with some other mechanisms to make your guests comfortable rather than creating a tremendous safety hazard that cost our child her life,” she said.
The family’s attorney, Michael Winkleman, told “Today” that he doesn’t doubt the death was accidental.
“But really, the singular question is, were there safety measures that could have been in place and should have been in place?” he said. “If they were in place, again, there would have been no tragedy.”
Kimberly Wiegand said she believes the cruise company needs to be held responsible in court.
“This cannot happen to another family,” she said.
A spokesman for Royal Caribbean Cruises, the Miami-based parent company that owns Royal Caribbean International, released the same statement to The Washington Post and NBC News.
“We are deeply saddened by this incident, and our hearts go out to the family,” spokesman Owen Torres said in an email. “We have assisted the authorities in San Juan with their inquiries, and they are the appropriate people to address further questions.”
According to the “Today” show, Puerto Rican officials said the investigation was in advanced stages and they could not release more information.
This month, Puerto Rico’s public security secretary, Elmer Román, told the Associated Press that investigators were exploring “multiple angles” in the case, including the possibility of negligence on the part of the cruise company.