SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The family of a northern Indiana girl who died after falling from a cruise ship earlier this year announced a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Wednesday.
Kim and Alan Wiegand, the parents of Chloe Wiegand, held a news conference in South Bend. The girl’s grandfather, Salvatore “Sam” Anello, and family attorney Michael Winkleman also spoke.
The family hopes the lawsuit will lead to safety changes, including additional signage, to prevent something like this from happening to another family. The family lives in Granger; Chloe’s father is an officer with the South Bend Police Department.
Chloe fell 11 stories to her death from a Royal Caribbean ship in July. Her grandfather was holding her and didn’t realize the window in front of him was open. He held her up so she could bang on the glass like she would at her brother’s hockey games. He believed the window was closed; Chloe slipped out of his grasp and fell.
Authorities in Puerto Rico charged Anello with negligent homicide in October.
“I sit here broken. We all sit here broken,” Anello said during Wednesday’s news conference. “Our family is strong and we will stay strong together.”
Chloe’s parents don’t support the criminal charges in the case. Kim Wiegand said she believes Royal Caribbean “played a major role” in Chloe’s death. The little girl would have celebrated her second birthday this week.
“We should be celebrating with presents and a birthday cake, but instead we are talking about her death,” Kim Wiegand said during Wednesday’s news conference.
“No other family should have to grieve the kind of loss we have to grieve,” she said. “It is 10 times worse than you can imagine.”
She continued, “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. We believe that filing a lawsuit against the cruise line sends the message to them that they were wrong.”
Surveillance video of the incident exists, and the family waited until they saw it to file the lawsuit. They aren’t showing the video to the public, saying they don’t want the last seconds of their daughter’s life to become scrutinized on the internet. They’re also trying to prevent Chloe’s older brother from seeing it.
Winkleman, who represents the Wiegands, said the lawsuit doesn’t specify damages. However, since the accident happened in port and not at sea, the family can seek full damages.