Toddler's cruise ship death brings wrongful death lawsuit

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - Friday would have marked the second birthday of a Granger toddler who fell from her grandfather’s arms through an open window on a cruise ship in July.

On Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed in Miami blaming the cruise ship company Royal Caribbean for the wrongful death of Chloe Wiegand.

“It’s a very difficult day for our family. Our daughter Chloe died in July. Her second birthday would have been this Friday, Dec. 13. We should be celebrating with a present and birthday cake; instead, we're here, talking about her death,” Chloe’s mother, Kim Wiegand, said during a morning news conference near South Bend.

The lawsuit features surveillance camera video taken during the three hours family members spent on a docked ship in Puerto Rico before tragedy struck on Deck 11.

The suit claiming that the cruise ship company was responsible for the incident comes at a time a criminal case in Puerto Rico blames the child’s own grandfather.

“I sit here broken. We all sit here broken, but our family is strong and we will stay strong together,” Chloe's grandfather, Salvadore Anello, said at Wednesday's news conference.

The suit takes issue with the perception that Chloe’s death was the result of a "freak accident."

The suit cites the Consumer Product Safety Commission in saying that eight children under the age of 5 die each year from “window falls.”

The suit also claims that window fall safety regulations were released in the year 2000 and that the ship in question did not comply with those regulations.

“You see that in the complaint with the photos from the Carnival ship showing that those windows do not open in a similar area, you see it on the NCL ship, which has the slats that only open 4 inches, which a child could not pass through, and you even see it on the newer ships on the Royal Caribbean fleet that have windows in a similar area that do not open,” Wiegand family attorney Michael Winkleman said.

“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. If that condition did not exist, Chloe would still be here,” Kim Wiegand added. “We believe that filing a lawsuit against the cruise line sends a message to them that they were wrong.”

About a dozen news crews attended Wednesday's announcement, which was held at the South Bend Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 36. Chloe’s father is South Bend police officer Al Wiegand.

“The goal of the family is that the filing of this case raises awareness about the danger to children. It’s been about five months now since this terrible tragedy occurred. If even one child has been saved or taken out of harm’s way because of it, it’s a win,” Winkleman said. “The other side of it is, is the hope that Royal Caribbean does something to fix these windows. I know this ship is supposed to go into refurbishment shortly. Fix it, fix it, change the windows, put a warning, do something.”