As the family of the infant who died after falling from the 11th deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship continues to search for answers, their lawyer has pinned the blame on the ship shirking safety regulations in a new update.
We had previously reported that 18-month-old Chloe Wigand of Indiana was on holiday with her parents and grandparents on the Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas ship when the tragedy occurred. The ship had been docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 7 when, while playing on the 11th deck, she fell 150 feet directly onto the concrete below and died instantly.
Local police said in a statement that Chloe fell after her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, lost his grip on her as he was holding her out of an 11th-floor window on the cruise ship, but the family's lawyer, Michael Winkleman, has hotly contested those claims.
Speaking at a press conference, Winkleman told reporters that this was not "like the Michael Jackson story where he was dangling her out of a window" and that the infant's death was a "preventable incident". Winkleman brushed aside official comments which said the pair were "in a dining hall on deck 11" and said that they were, in fact, "in the water park on the ship, which is designed for kids."
"There's a whole wall of windows," said Winkleman. "And the grandfather thought that this window was closed. It turns out, we've come to learn, that ... passengers can open these windows."
"You have a wall of windows with one hidden hole," he continued. "Unknowingly, then, the grandfather places Chloe on the wood railing before the wall of windows, believing Chloe will bang on the glass just like she does at her brother's hockey games, and the next thing he knows, she's gone."
Winkleman said there were federal laws and federal standards "designed specifically to prevent this" that mandated the use of screens, grids, and limiting the amount that a window can open.
He said the Freedom of the Seas, which made its maiden voyage in 2006, was old and that none of the newer ships have windows that can be opened in a similar way. "I think the Royal Caribbean needs to answer these questions: Why would you ever in a kid's play area put windows that passengers can open?" he told reporters.
Winkleman said the family ultimately does not want Chloe's death to be "just about the tragedy" and want to ensure that no other family has to live through this kind of an incident. "I do think that there is going to be blame and significant blame on the cruise line," he said. "I will do everything I can to hold them accountable for what appears to me to be negligence."
Royal Caribbean International said they were "deeply saddened" by the death and would not comment on it any further out of respect for the family's privacy.