A grandad has been pictured with the tragic tot he dropped 45 metres to her death from a cruise ship window he claims he thought was shut.
Chloe Wiegand plummeted 11 floors from the Freedom of the Seas, reportedly slamming into concrete below while the vessel was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, The Sun reports.
It was initially claimed the 18-month-old slipped through the hands of Salvatore Anello who lifted her out the window as he played with her.
But the family’s lawyer has hit back, denying the girl was dangled out the window and pinning blame for the tragedy on Royal Caribbean cruise line.
The doting grandfather placed the girl on a railing he believed was behind glass, Michael Winkleman told NBC.
Little Chloe loved to look through windows and would often bang on the glass while watching her big brother play ice hockey, the family revealed.
But for some reason one of the panes of glass in the children’s play area where the family were gathered was not there, Mr Winkleman claimed.
The lawyer said: “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.
“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.”
He added: “Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kid’s area?”
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Sun Online: “We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family.
“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.”
CRIES OF AGONY
Elmer Román, from the Department of Public Security, previously told Primera Hora early investigations suggested the grandfather took her to the edge as part of a “game”.
Mr Anello and several other family members were so hysterical after the child’s tragic death plunge they had to be sedated by medics, according to El Vocero.
Witnesses told how they heard the family, from Indiana, US, wailing in agony after Chloe fell to her death.
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.”
Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman José Carmona said the family was gathered in or near a dining hall on the 11th floor, and the grandfather sat the toddler on the edge of a window.
He said officials were investigating whether the window was already opened or if someone had opened it.
Police are probing the incident but say early indications suggest the toddler died as a result of a tragic accident.
It is not clear whether Mr Anello or anyone else will be prosecuted over Chloe’s death, with cops quizzing witnesses and reviewing CCTV before deciding whether to file negligence charges.
Henry Escalera Rivera, Commissioner of the Police Bureau, told Prima Hora: “This is a process that is under investigation.
“We must wait to interview relatives and evaluate other evidence to determine if the filing of charges is appropriate.”
Devastated mum Kimberley Schultz Wiegand posted pictures of herself with her little girl on Facebook in the wake of the tragedy.
Friends and family paid tribute, leaving comments like: “Sweet angel. Praying for you and your family Kim.”
Another wrote: “You are loved. Praying for you and your family. I’m so sorry.”
The child’s father has been identified as police officer Alan Wiegand by the South Bend Police Department in Indiana.
Police chief Scott Ruszkowski disputed the statement issued by Puerto Rico police that the girl was being held out of the window.
The boat has a height of around 64 metres, and the 11th floor will have been around 45 metres above land level when the vessel was docked.
It holds around 4000 passengers and was ending a seven-day Southern Caribbean cruise of Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados at the time of the tragedy.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission