NEW YORK POST- The family of an Indiana toddler who fell to her death from a cruise ship’s 11th-floor window filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Wednesday against Royal Caribbean Cruises, claiming the company played a “major role” in the July tragedy.
Grieving relatives of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand — including her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, who has been charged with negligent homicide in her fatal July 7 fall – announced the filing at a news conference.
The little girl died after Anello put her on a railing so she could bang on glass — but she instead slipped from his arms and fell through an open window pane, plummeting around 150 feet onto a pier below, according to the 21-page lawsuit.
The girl’s mother, Kimberly Schultz-Wiegand, alleged Royal Caribbean had a “major role” in Chloe’s death because there was no reason for the ship to have panes of glass that opened surrounding its 11th floor.
“If that condition did not exist, Chloe would still be here,” Schultz-Wiegand told reporters. “We believe that filing a lawsuit against the cruise line sends a message that they were wrong. Most of all, we hope that this improves the safety of these ships for other children and their families.”
Attorney Michael Winkleman, who is representing Wiegand’s family, claims Royal Caribbean did not adhere to window fall-prevention laws that have been set for “literally decades” prior to the girl’s fall aboard its Freedom of the Seas as it was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“The singular goal is to raise awareness about window falls, to try to prevent this from ever happening to another child again,” attorney Michael Winkleman, who is representing Wiegand’s family, told reporters. “This was an unsafe wall of glass that shouldn’t have been there, within feet of a children’s play area.”
Newer Royal Caribbean ships, including the Anthem of the Seas, do comply with industry standards by having glass panes that do not open, according to the lawsuit, which did not specify what damages the family is seeking from Miami-based cruise line.
“Had the Wiegand family just been on a different ship … Chloe would still be here,” Winkleman said, adding that a decal may have also alerted the toddler’s family to the open window.
Anello, 51, of Valparaiso, was charged in October by Puerto Rican authorities after security video of the incident was submitted to prosecutors. He has since said that his colorblindness may have played a role in his granddaughter’s death.
“I just wanted to express how sorry I am, [that] any of us have to be here today,” Anello said during a brief statement on Wednesday. “I sit here broken … and we all sit here broken, but our family is strong and we will stay strong together as Kim and [Chloe’s father, Alan] resolve to see this through.”
Schultz-Wiegand, meanwhile, said she backs her stepfather and opposes the charges he faces in the girl’s death.
“We are here today as a family supporting one another and we will continue to do so,” she said. “Our family has already lost everything. What purpose could possibly be served by prosecuting a misdemeanor?”
Anello is due to return to court on Dec. 17 to decide if he wants a trial by jury or judge, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported.
A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean said in an email to The Post that the company had no comment on the civil filing.
“Our hearts go out to the family for their tragic loss,” the spokesperson wrote. “Mr. Salvatore Anello is currently being criminally prosecuted for negligent homicide in the case.”