The family of Chloe Wiegand, the 18-month-old girl who fell to her death on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in July, filed a lawsuit against the cruise line Wednesday. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified financial award and aims to prevent a similar tragedy from recurring, according to the family’s attorney Michael Winkleman.
“This is a very difficult day for our family. Our daughter Chloe died in July, her second birthday would have been this Friday December 13,” Chloe’s mother Kim Wiegand said at a press conference in South Bend, Indiana, nearby her home in Granger. “I spend my evenings visiting with her urn, rather than rocking my little girl to sleep. We would do anything to put ourselves in different circumstances.”
“Royal Caribbean played a major role in the death of our child. There is no reason for this ship to have walls of glass surrounding the 11th floor with portions that open,” Wiegand said. “… We believe that filing a lawsuit against the cruise line sends a message to them that they were wrong.”
“No other family should have to grieve the kind of loss we have to grieve,” she said. ” … It is sometimes worse than you can ever imagine.”
The suit alleges that the specific Royal Caribbean ship — Freedom of the Seas — that the family was on is not compliant with industry standards and window fall prevention laws, according to Winkleman. The complaint includes photos of Carnival cruise ships, newer Royal Caribbean cruise ships, as well as Norwegian cruise line cruise ships that are all compliant with the fall prevention laws.
“Had the Wiegand family just been on another ship … Chloe would still be here,” Winkleman said.
“That’s the goal for the family, to continue to raise awareness of these risks, and moreover to make Chloe’s name one that’s not just about tragedy, but one that will continue to save children’s lives for many years to come,” Winkleman said.
Wiegand also addressed the criminal charge in Puerto Rico against Chloe’s grandfather, Salvatore “Sam” Anello, who placed his granddaughter on a wooden railing in front of what he says he believed to be a closed window, but was actually open. Chloe slipped through his hands and fell 150 feet.
“It’s like it disappeared. It’s like the glass disappeared,” Anello told “CBS This Morning” in November. Anello also revealed to CBS News that he is colorblind and said he lifted the girl up so she could bang the glass as if they were at a hockey game.
“I want to be clear and unequivocal: We do not support this misdemeanor charge or any charges whatsoever. Not then, not now, and not ever,” Wiegand said. “We are here today as a family supporting one another and we will continue to do so.”
She continued: “Our family has already lost everything. What purpose could possibly be served by prosecuting a misdemeanor offense? It continues to be a source of stress and anxiety for our entire family. And when we have already lost someone, what does this accomplish?”
Anello is expected to appear in court December 17 in Puerto Rico.
David Begnaud contributed to this report.
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