Photo behind girl’s tragic cruise ship fall
A new photo has been released by the family of Chloe Wiegand, who died after falling 45 metres to her death from a cruise ship window her grandfather claims he thought was shut.
18-month-old Chloe plummeted 11 floors from the 'Freedom of the Seas' cruise liner, reportedly slamming into concrete below while the vessel was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
It was initially claimed the toddler slipped through the hands of her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, who had lifted her out the window as he played with her.
But the family's lawyer has hit back, denying the girl was dangled out the window and pinning blame for the tragedy on Royal Caribbean cruise line.
According to lawyer Michael Winkleman, the doting grandfather placed the girl on a railing he believed was behind a wall of glass in the "water park on the ship, which is designed for the kids."
Mr Winkleman beleives the windows on the ship might have looked similar to the panes of glass Chloe would often bang on while watching her big brother play ice hockey.
"There's a whole wall of windows [on the ship]," Mr Winkleman told NBC.
"The grandfather thought that this window was closed. It turns out, we've come to learn, that ... passengers can open these windows."
Mr Winkleman said while the other windows were closed, there was one that was open and created a "hidden hole", which Chloe fell through.
"Unknowingly, 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," he explained.
"Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kid's area?"
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson told news.com.au they were "deeply saddened" by the "tragic incident".
"Our hearts go out to the family," the statement read.
"We've made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need.
"Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident."
CRIES OF AGONY
Elmer Román, from the Department of Public Security, previously told Primera Hora early investigations suggested the grandfather took her to the edge as part of a "game".
Mr Anello and several other family members were so hysterical after the child's tragic death plunge they had to be sedated by medics, according to El Vocero.
Witnesses told how they heard the family, from Indiana, US, wailing in agony after Chloe fell to her death.
One passenger told Telemundo PR: "We heard the screams of the families because we were close.
"A cry of pain of that nature does not compare with any other cry."
Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman José Carmona said the family was gathered in or near a dining hall on the 11th floor, and the grandfather sat the toddler on the edge of a window.
He said officials were investigating whether the window was already opened or if someone had opened it.
Police are probing the incident but say early indications suggest the toddler died as a result of a tragic accident.
It is not clear whether Mr Anello or anyone else will be prosecuted over Chloe's death, with cops quizzing witnesses and reviewing CCTV before deciding whether to file negligence charges.
Henry Escalera Rivera, Commissioner of the Police Bureau, told Prima Hora: "This is a process that is under investigation.
"We must wait to interview relatives and evaluate other evidence to determine if the filing of charges is appropriate."
Devastated mum Kimberley Schultz Wiegand posted pictures of herself with her little girl on Facebook in the wake of the tragedy.
Friends and family paid tribute, leaving comments like: "Sweet angel. Praying for you and your family Kim."
Another wrote: "You are loved. Praying for you and your family. I'm so sorry."
The child's father has been identified as police officer Alan Wiegand by the South Bend Police Department in Indiana.
Police chief Scott Ruszkowski disputed the statement issued by Puerto Rico police that the girl was being held out of the window.
The boat has a height of around 64 metres, and the 11th floor will have been around 45 metres above land level when the vessel was docked.
It holds around 4000 passengers and was ending a seven-day Southern Caribbean cruise of Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados at the time of the tragedy.
- with The Sun