‘The next thing he knows, she’s gone’: Attorney believes toddler’s death on cruise ship was preventable

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – The attorney for the family of an 18-month-old girl who died after falling from the 11th floor of a cruise ship believes the accident was preventable.

A Port Authority spokesman said the girl’s grandfather lost his balance, leading to the fall aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship as it was docked in Puerto Rico.

However, attorney Michael Winkleman told the media Tuesday that the girl’s grandfather thought there was a glass window in front of them.

According to Winkleman, the grandfather was playing with his granddaughter in the kids’ water area. She wanted to bang on the glass like she did at her brother’s hockey games, but there was no glass there to support her. She fell 150 feet and died from her injuries at an area hospital.

The grandfather described what happened to Winkleman in a tear-filled conversation in which he could barely speak, the attorney said.

“He takes her over to the windows, he thinks it’s all glass, there’s a wood railing there. He puts her up there thinking she’s going to bang on the glass and it’s going to be great. She goes to bang on the glass, and the next thing he knows, she’s gone.”

He doesn’t believe the grandfather, who works for St. Joseph County, was negligent, and said the family is doing “terrible” in the aftermath of the little girl’s death.

“If they knew that there was a risk—I mean if this was the Michael Jackson story where Michael Jackson is hanging the baby out there—clearly the parents [are] negligent, no question about it,” Winkleman said. “But here, if you have a wall of glass, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to put a child there thinking there was glass there.”

Winkleman believes there will be “significant blame” on the cruise line.

“I think it could have been prevented,” Winkleman said. “I think it’s still very early, so there’s probably more questions that need to be answered.”

The child’s father is Alan Wiegand, an officer with the South Bend Police Department. Winkleman said the family was still in Puerto Rico and wanted to return home. They were still waiting for authorities to release the little girl’s body.

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