Royal Caribbean is yet to hand over surveillance footage of Sunday’s tragedy aboard its cruise ship Freedom of the Seas in which an 18-month-old girl fell to her death from a high window while playing with her grandfather, according to the family’s lawyer.
Chloe Wiegand fell from an eleventh-storey window while the vessel was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after her grandfather Salvatore Anello placed her on a railing not realizing there was no glass behind her.
According to Michael Winkelman, a maritime attorney acting for the family, Wiegand liked to bang on the glass at her brother’s hockey games, and Anello thought she was about to do the same when she fell through what was, in fact, an open window.
Police in Puerto Rico are investigating the incident and any potential negligence on the part of the family. But Winkelman has sought to shift blame onto the cruise ship operator for having an open window in a children’s area without any warning signs, leading to a preventable tragedy.
He wants to see the dining hall surveillance footage as part of his investigation into exactly what happened, and anticipates filing a negligence suit on behalf of Wiegand’s distraught family once this process is complete. The family flew home to Indiana on Thursday.
“We still have not received the footage despite repeated requests to Royal Caribbean. This is certainly the most critical piece of evidence,” Winkleman told Newsweek.
Royal Caribbean did not respond immediately to Newsweek‘s request for comment on the surveillance footage.
In a previous statement on Thursday, the company said: “We are assisting local authorities in San Juan, PR, as they make inquiries after an incident aboard Freedom of the Seas on Sunday. We do not have further information to share at this point.”
Initial reports on the tragedy suggested Anello dropped his granddaughter from the window after a police statement that she had slipped from his grasp. But the family quickly denied this, and Winkelman sought to clarify events in a press conference on Tuesday.
Winkelman said had an “incredibly tearful conversation” with Anello, who had to be sedated at the scene, about what happened. The grandfather repeatedly said while crying, “I thought it was like she was at a hockey game,” referring to the girl enjoying banging on the glass.
“If this was the Michael Jackson story, where Michael Jackson’s hanging the baby out there, clearly the parent was negligent, no question about it,” Winkleman told reporters. “But here, if you have a wall of glass, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to put a child there thinking there was glass there.”
The attorney also said: “Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall of windows in a kids’ area? Why would you have that kind of hidden danger without any warning, without any sign, without any notice?”
He concluded: “I think there is going to be blame and significant blame on the cruise line and I’m going to do everything I can to hold them accountable for what appears to be negligence.”