The child was placed on an edge where there was an open window, and when she "tried to bang on the glass", she fell.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on September 23, 2022. It has since been updated.
Nobody knows when life will take a tragic turn. We try to keep our loved ones close but we don't know when something unforeseen would happen. A small mistake, on your part or someone else's, can cost you a loved one. The grief of losing a child and in an unexpected way isn't something a parent will ever learn to cope with. Recently, an Indiana mom lost her 1-year-old baby girl after the child fell from a height on a cruise ship. What was supposed to be a happy family memory turned into the worst nightmare for the family.
Chloe Weigand from Indiana fell to death from 150 feet from the Royal Caribbean vessel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The family's holiday cruise hadn't even begun when the incident took place. It is believed that the 18-month-old slipped from her maternal grandfather, Salvatore Anello's arms while they were standing beside a window on the 11th deck of the Freedom of the Seas. However, the family is disputing the claims. They have said that her grandfather placed her on a ledge near the window without realizing that there was no glass there, TODAY reported.
Her parents, brother, paternal and maternal grandparents, and other relatives were on the ship with her. Salvatore had been crying hysterically after the incident unable to cope with the grief and had to be sedated, according to Sun UK. While the mother's cries of pain jolted everyone to attention.
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.”
Kimberly Schultz Wiegand, Chloe's mom, and father, South Bend police officer Alan Wiegand, are devastated over their loss. The family has hired a lawyer, attorney Michael Winkleman, and have assigned blame on the cruise ship company for not taking care of safety measures. This is a loss that would be almost impossible to rise out of.
He told BBC that the grandfather did not drop Chloe instead she fell from the open pane that should have been closed. The duo was playing in a water zone for children on the ship. The child wanted to bang on the glass as she used to during her brother's hockey games when she fell. Winkleman said, "Her grandfather thought there was glass just like everywhere else, but there was not, and she was gone in an instant".
"Essentially her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where he thinks that there is glass there because it's clear, but it turns out there was no glass there," he said. "She goes to bang on the glass like she would have at one of those hockey rinks, and the next thing you know, she's gone." She had crashed on to the concrete floor and was declared dead when taken to the hospital.
The toddler used to love being near windows but having an open pane when all others were closed without any indication or sign was a "hidden danger". "Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kids area?" the lawyer said. "I mean, why would you have that kind of a hidden danger without any warning, without any sign, without any notice?"
He further added that there was "significant blame on the cruise line" as he considered this a case of negligence, according to BBC. The family is in a "terrible" state, understandably, and to add further to their woes are still in Puerto Rico as Salvatore is being investigated.
His boss, Mike Hamann, told WSBT-TV that people "just love him here in the county". "He's a very selfless man, he's got a servant's heart, as we say. And just one of the most wonderful human beings that you could ever meet," he said.
In their difficult time, the South Bend police have asked everyone to give the family their privacy and have expressed their condolences. South Bend mayor and Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg also expressed his condolences to the family. "We are saddened by the terrible accident that took the life of Officer Wiegand’s young daughter, and the city is holding this family in our hearts," he tweeted.
The Royal Caribbean meanwhile told CBS News that their "heart goes out to the family."
"We've made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need," the company said in a statement. "Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident."