The heartbroken parents of a toddler who died by falling through an open window on a cruise ship while being held up by her grandfather told on Monday how they do not blame him for her death and revealed the moment they were told she had died.
Chloe Wiegand died earlier this month after falling 150ft from an open window on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship onto a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Her grandfather, Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello, had held the 18-month-old up to what he called a ‘wall of windows’ to allow her to bang on the glass, something she loved to do at home. They were on the 11th floor of the cruise ship in a children’s play area.
The window he held her up to, however, had been slid open and he was unaware. She went straight through it, falling onto the dock below and letting out a ‘blood curdling’ scream on the way.
On Monday, an interview featuring her cop father Alan and mother Kimberly aired on TODAY where the pair spoke publicly for the first time of their grief and told how Anello is still in pieces.
They blame the cruise liner for her death and say their explanation – that the window was open for ‘ventilation’ – is not good enough.
Kimberly revealed that when she was first told something had happened to Chloe, she was unaware that she’d gone through the window and ran up to it, demanding to know where her baby was, then looked outside and saw the concrete she fell onto.
Alan and Kimberly Wiegand appeared on TODAY on Monday to tell of their grief after the death of their daughter Chloe earlier this month
Chloe, who was 18 months old, let out a ‘blood curdling’ scream as she fell onto a concrete dock. She was being held by her grandfather Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello (right)
‘When they told me Chloe had died, I didn’t know she went out a window. I just saw Sam standing next to the wall of windows, screaming and banging on it and there was like somebody trying to stop me.
‘I just kept saying, “Take me to my baby. Where is my baby?”
‘I didn’t know she had gone out the window. Then I looked over, and it wasn’t water beneath, it was concrete. To lose our baby this way is just unfathomable.
‘I never want another mother to have to experience what I had to, to see what I had to see or scream or how I had to scream,’ she said.
The parents do not blame Anello for their daughter’s death and say he is still distraught.
‘He was extremely hysterical. The thing he repeatedly told us was, I believed there was glass. He would cry, over and over.
‘At no point ever, ever, has Sam put our kids in any danger,’ Kimberly said.
Alan added: ‘He was very, very distraught.
‘You can barely look at him without him crying. She was his best friend.’
The family is now planning to take legal action against Royal Caribbean which they say they ‘obviously’ blame for Chloe’s death.
‘We obviously blame them. There are a million things that could have been done to make that safer.
‘Why on earth is a window open on the 11th floor without a screen or anything? Their answer was “we need ventilation.”
The window on the far left is the one Chloe fell through on Sunday while being held against the railing by her grandfather. The others appear to have handles which allow them to be slid open This photograph was taken by Chloe’s father after the accident
The window is shown in an exterior image taken after the accident. The family says her grandfather simply did not realize it was open when he propped her up
Chloe plummeted 150ft from the 11th floor of the ship onto a concrete dock beneath it
Chloe, the family said, ‘exuded love’ and ‘loved people’. Her parents said on Monday that her first word was ‘hi’
Kimberly sobbed as she said she never wanted another mother to ‘see what she had seen’
Distraught: Anello is shown arriving in Chicago from Puerto Rico earlier this month
‘Well to that I say, get a fan,’ Kimberly said.
Choking on tears as she described her grief, she said that she wakes up every day forgetting what has happened for around 30 seconds before the sadness hits her again.
‘The first 30 seconds of the day, I don’t remember what happened and then it comes back and I relive what happened. The thing I latch on to is her memory, she just exuded love.
‘She loved watching her brother play hockey, she loved gardening with me. She could get anyone to smile.
‘I just know that she was destined to do such great things, even in her short life I truly believe she changes so many lives,’ she said.
Her father added: ‘We’ll never forget her. She is part of our soul.’
When Chloe’s older brother learned that she had died, he told his parents he wished he had been standing next to her because he would have jumped out to save her, they said.
‘I know he believes that. To know he’s living that….’ Kimberly trailed off.
Anello said he took his granddaughter over to the windows because she loved banging on the glass at her brother’s ice hockey games in Indiana (seen left). He thought she would like to bang on the cruise ship windows too but ‘before he knew it, she was gone’
The family has hired a lawyer to handle their case against the cruise liner.
Asked if they wanted Royal Caribbean to be held accountable in court, Kimberly said: ‘I think that they have to be. ‘This cannot happen to another family.’
He told the show: ‘There’s no doubt this was an accident but the singular question is if were there safety measures that could have been in place.’
The family were just one day into their week-long trip when Chloe died.
They were forced to stay in Puerto Rico for several days while authorities investigated before being able to return home with Chloe’s body.
Royal Caribbean has said that it was ‘deeply saddened’ by the accident.
It helped the family pay for hotels and flights after the incident, their lawyer said.
‘We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need.
‘Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident,’ the cruise liner said in a statement earlier this month.
It has not responded to the lawyer’s allegations of negligence.