INDIANAPOLIS — A Granger couple whose 18-month-old daughter fell to her death Sunday from the 11th story of a cruise ship are on their way home with their daughter's remains and are expected to pass through the Region Thursday with a police escort, an attorney for the family said.
Chloe Wiegand's parents, her two siblings and her two sets of grandparents "flew from Puerto Rico to Fort Lauderdale this morning and then boarded a flight to Chicago," Miami-based attorney Michael Winkleman told The Times.
"They will be allowed to leave the plane with Chloe's remains," he said. "A hearse is meeting them, and they will drive back to Indiana with a full police escort."
"The family is relieved to be heading home so that they can grieve as a family and begin funeral preparations," Winkleman added. "The boundless positive thoughts and prayers they've received have been a ray of hope in this difficult time."
Chloe's grandfather, Salvatore Anello, who was with her at the time of the fall, is from Valparaiso.
The girl's father Alan Wiegand is a South Bend police officer and an online fundraiser is underway to help the family with funeral, travel, and other expenses.
Winkleman has challenged Puerto Rico police's Monday statement that Chloe apparently slipped from her grandfather's hands as he was holding her out of an 11th-floor window on the Freedom of the Seas.
Winkleman said Tuesday that she plunged from a window that had been inexplicably left open in a children's play area. He said the Granger, Indiana, toddler was playing with her grandfather in the "kid's water zone" on the ship as it was docked in Puerto Rico when she asked him to lift her to a wall of windows lining the play area.
The toddler wanted to bang on the glass "like she always did at her older brother's hockey games," Winkleman said Tuesday. "Her grandfather thought there was glass just like everywhere else, but there was not, and she was gone in an instant."
Winkleman said that window should have been closed securely and he sees grounds for the family to file a civil lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises. He said the family is still seeking surveillance video from the area of the ship where Chloe fell to her death.
Police in Puerto Rico declined to comment Tuesday on Winkleman's account of the events leading up to the child's fatal fall.
Police had no immediate comment Wednesday on their investigation into the girl's death.
Winkleman said the girl's father, Alan Wiegand, was interviewed Wednesday by police investigating his youngest child's death. He said other relatives have also been interviewed by police on the U.S. island territory.
Royal Caribbean Cruises called the girl's death a tragic incident in a statement Monday and said it was helping the family. The cruise line has not commented on Winkleman's statements about the circumstances of the girl's death.
Royal Caribbean Cruises spokesman Owen Torres said in a statement Wednesday the company continues assisting local authorities in San Juan in their investigation.
Times Staff Writer Bob Kasarda and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Check back at nwi.com for updates to this story.
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