Toddler’s Fatal Fall On Cruise Ship ‘Not Like The Michael Jackson Story,’ Lawyer Says

Conflicting stories have emerged about what caused 18-month-old Chloe Weigand to fall from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
Royal Caribbean cruise ship

An attorney representing the family of a toddler who fell to her death on a cruise ship has issued a statement sharing their side of the story, specifically stating the child’s grandfather did not drop her.

Chloe Weigand, the 18-month-old daughter of an Indiana police officer, was with her family on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico when she fell to her death on July 7, according to the Indianapolis Star. But following reports suggesting that Weigand fell after her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, either placed her on a railing or lost his grip around her, a lawyer representing the family suggested at a press conference Tuesday that a number of claims being made about the girl’s death are not factual, according to CNN.

What happened was not “like the Michael Jackson story, where he was dangling the child out the window,” attorney Michael Winkleman said this week.

Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman José Carmona told the Associated Press in a report published Monday that the family was in a dining area on the 11th floor when Anello sat the child on the edge of a window, adding that authorities are investigating if the window was left open or if someone opened it prior to the child’s fall. However, Winkleman disputed this version of events on Tuesday, calling what happened a “preventable incident.”

Anello and his granddaughter were at the ship’s water park, in an area designed for children, when they encountered a “whole wall of windows,” Winkleman said, according to CNN. Anello thought the windows were closed; he placed Chloe on a wooden railing in front of the windows, expecting her to bang on the glass as she often did while watching her brother’s hockey games, “and the next thing he knows, she’s gone,” Winkleman said.

Police Sgt. Nelson Sotelo said Weigand's family — her parents, siblings, and two sets of grandparents — will all remain in Puerto Rico until the investigation is over, according to the Associated Press. Anello, he said, is under investigation.

However, Winkleman on Tuesday stated his belief that the cruise line should be held responsible for the child’s tragic death.

“I think Royal Caribbean needs to answer these questions: Why would you ever in a kid’s play area put windows that passengers can open? I mean, we’ve all had that experience where someone walks into a glass sliding door thinking it’s not there. This is the inverse of that,” he said. “It was reasonable for Sam the grandfather to think that this was all glass because from his perspective it was all glass.”

Police in Puerto Rico have not responded to Winkleman’s claims, according to a report from the Associated Press. The cruise line did not respond to the outlet’s request for comment on Tuesday, but in a statement issued Monday, offered its condolences to the family.

“We are deeply saddened by yesterday's tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family,” its statement reads, according to CNN. “We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need.”

The family was still in Puerto Rico on Tuesday as they wait for Weigand's body to be released, multiple outlets report.

Winkleman, who hopes to obtain surveillance footage of the accident, said the cruise line was negligent.

“I do think that there is going to be blame and significant blame on the cruise line,” he said. “I will do everything I can to hold them accountable for what appears to me to be negligence.”

The ship, following a revised itinerary, left Puerto Rico for St. Maarten on Monday, a spokesperson for the cruise line previously confirmed to the Associated Press.

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