An Indiana family is struggling with unimaginable tragedy after their 18-month-old daughter suffered a fatal cruise ship injury aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. What was set to be a family adventure is now a tragedy that highlights the importance of cruise ship safety.
Fatal Cruise Ship Injury Information
Chloe Wiegand, only 18 months old, died from injuries she suffered after a fall from a cruise ship window. The initial version of the story indicated the girl fell from the window after slipping from her grandfather’s arms. As the days have passed, however, new details have emerged that make it clear the family believes the cruise line was negligent and therefore is at fault for the toddler’s death.
The family says the girl’s grandfather put her up on a railing at a window in a children’s water park area. Young Chloe was a big hockey fan and loved to watch her older brother play. She loved to indulge in the quintessentially toddler impulse to bang on the glass. Knowing this about his granddaughter, Chloe’s grandfather put the little girl on the railing of a wall that was lined with glass windows.
Instead of happily banging on glass, the child encountered only air and suffered the cruise ship injury that ended her life. Her grandfather could not have realized that the window was open, and when the baby went to bang on the glass, she fell through the opening to her death. Bystanders reported a blood-curdling scream as the baby fell 10 stories from the window to the concrete dock below.
Was This a Preventable Cruise Ship Injury?
The girl’s family says her death was a preventable tragedy. They question why the cruise line would have put windows in a child’s play area that could be opened by passengers. They further question why the window opened into a blank portal instead of having screening or other safety measures, especially in an area that should have been safe for small children.
In a statement, Chloe’s grandfather defended his actions saying he didn’t think it was “unreasonable” to put a child on the railing thinking there was glass behind it. The family says they did not open the window or see it opened. They had every reason to believe the blank space in the wall of windows was clear glass.
The family is adamant they feel they have grounds for a lawsuit.
Who is to Blame?
The basic assumption aboard cruise ships is that they do everything possible to provide a safe environment for all passengers. As such, every passenger has a right to expect the cruise line to:
- Minimize slip and fall risks
- Minimize the risks of overboard falls
- Contain any outbreaks of infectious disease during the cruise
- Protect against foodborne and waterborne illnesses
The liability for the cruise ship injury that led to Chloe’s death remains somewhat unclear. The attorney for the family says any question of civil liability may be answered when his firm reviews video of the incident. As of this moment, the law firm for the family does not have access to the video. The firm is in talks with Royal Caribbean about obtaining it.
The family hopes to learn why and by whom the window was opened, and their attorney says Royal Caribbean may be liable if there was no compelling reason for the window in the children’s area to be open.
Royal Caribbean is taking a defensive stance in the tragedy by making statements carefully crafted to hedge the issue of liability. Their statement refers to the little girl’s death as an “incident” not an “accident.” The cruise line is fully participating with authorities in Puerto Rico during the investigation.
The investigation is taking place in Puerto Rico because the ship was docked there at the time of the accident. A prosecutor in Puerto Rico has been conducting interviews while the Puerto Rico police lead the investigation surrounding Chloe’s cruise ship injury. The child’s autopsy took place in Puerto Rico as well.
Fall Prevention Safety Measures
Parents and caregivers can only do their best with the information and environment that surround them. Chloe’s grandfather had every reason to believe there was glass behind the railing. He did the best he could with the information available to him in a possibly unsafe environment.
Falls are a leading cause of injuries among children. About 8,000 children go to the ER everyday for fall-related injuries.
On cruise ships, 24 people fall overboard every year. Falling from multi-story cruise ship results in catastrophic injuries. One in five people who fall overboard on a cruise ship die as a result of the fall.
In most cases, you can prevent injuries and falls using tips like these:
- Play safely – Be mindful of the ground surface where there is a risk of falling, like on playgrounds or water parks. Check for wood chips, sand, or soft rubber surfaces and avoid play areas with concrete floors, dirt, or grass.
- Supervise – Supervise young kids around fall hazards at all times. Stairs, playground equipment, and any surface for climbing can be fall hazards.
- Think sports safety – Active kids can be hurt while playing in sports. Always opt for the appropriate safety equipment like helmets, shin guards, and knee or elbow pads.
Rights to Compensation after a Cruise Ship Injury
Parents and guardians can only do so much to protect the children in their care. When in an environment like a cruise ship, it is only natural to trust that proper safety measures have been put into place.
Cruise ships have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for their passengers. Any failure of this responsibility leaves them open to a lawsuit for the costs of:
- Medical bills
- Lost Income
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental Anguish
If you or someone you love has suffered a cruise ship injury or a maritime workplace injury, talk to Maritime Injury Guide. If negligence contributed to injury or death, you may be able to take legal action. Find out more by calling our maritime injury lawyer at 1-866-871-8422. You can also email us to request a free case evaluation.