The parents of an 18-month-old girl who died by falling from an open window on a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship said Wednesday they are suing the cruise line. Alan and Kimberly Weigand of South Bend were on that ship in Puerto Rico in July when their daughter, Chloe, fell out of an open window from the ship's 11th story while she was being watched by her grandfather, Salvatore "Sam" Anello.
Anello, the lawsuit says, did not know that this was not a wall of fixed glass. Instead, some of the glass panes in the middle row could be slid open by anyone, including other passengers. "The crux of the complaint is essentially that, this was an unsafe wall of glass that shouldn't have been there within feet of a children's play area," said Michael Winkleman, the attorney representing the Wiegand's in the lawsuit. Winkleman says this is not some "freak accident."
"This is something that became well-known in the early 90s, so much so, that they formed a commission that was actually tasked with preventing kids from falling out of windows," Winkleman said.
The family did not specify what damages they are seeking from the cruise line. Instead, they focused on their desire to see Royal Caribbean and others make safety and signage changes to prevent future problems.
"If they weren't going to follow these window fall prevention laws, then, at a minimum, there should have been some type of warning or some type of decal. Just four simple words that would have alerted Sam to this hidden danger and Chloe would still be here today," Winkleman said.
Winkleman says cruise lines all across the world work hard to prevent deaths like Chloe's.
"Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines, and even newer Royal Caribbean cruise ships have windows that are wholly compliant with these window fall prevention codes," said Winkleman.
In October, prosecutors in Puerto Rico charged Anello with negligent homicide.
"We do not support this misdemeanor charge or any charges whatsoever. Not then. Not now. And not ever," Kimberly Wiegand said.
Anello spoke briefly at Wednesday's press conference. “I sit here broken. We all sit here broken,” Anello said. “But our family is strong and we will stay strong together.”
If convicted, the charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Anello is supposed to appear in court in Puerto Rico on Dec. 17.
Winkleman also says the cruise line failed to "provide reasonably safe children entertainment areas," failed to "adequately mark the open windows," and failed to "install safety prevention devices on windows."