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Family Sues Cruise Line Over Toddler's Fatal Fall

Chloe Wiegand fell from what her grandfather says he didn't realize was an open window
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2019 10:40 AM CST
This May 11, 2006 file photo shows the Freedom of the Seas, the cruise ship the Wiegand family was on when Chloe died, docked in Bayonne, NJ.   (AP Photo/Mike Derer, File)

(Newser) – The family of the toddler who died in a fall from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship has spoken out against the company many times, and now they're suing. Chloe Wiegand's family, in a lawsuit they announced Wednesday in Indiana two days before what would have been Chloe's second birthday, says the window out of which the 18-month-old fell 11 stories to her death should never have been open. The suit also details Chloe's final moments, NBC News and the Indianapolis Star report:

  • She was playing in a kids water play area on the 11th deck of the ship when her mom, Kimberly Schultz Wiegand, had to step away. Her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, started watching her, and he followed her when she walked over to a row of what appeared to be a wall of fixed glass.
  • "Unknown to Mr. Anello at that time, this was not, in fact, a wall of fixed glass," the suit says. NBC has a photo showing three rows of windows with a wooden railing between the middle and bottom rows; some windows in the middle row could be opened by anyone, including passengers.

  • The wood rail, which sat about 18 inches away from what Anello thought was a fixed pane of glass, kept him far enough away that he couldn't tell the window was actually open when Chloe asked to be lifted up. He held her on the railing, but as she leaned forward to bang on what she thought was a glass window, "she slipped from Mr. Anello's arms, falling through the open pane and down approximately 150 feet below" onto the San Juan, Puerto Rico, pier, per the suit.
Puerto Rico authorities have charged Anello with negligent homicide; he's next due in court Dec. 17. But a lawyer for the family tells NBC, "This is not some freak accident. This is something that was a preventable accident." He says windows on other cruise ships, both Royal Caribbean and other lines, have windows that are compliant with "fall prevention" standards for cruise ships, but the windows on the older Royal Caribbean ship in question aren't. The suit asks for an unspecified amount of damages and seeks to see the cruise line and others make safety updates to their ships. (Anello told his story last month.)

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