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Parents of toddler who fell from Royal Caribbean cruise ship share 'unfathomable' grief

In a TODAY exclusive, Alan and Kimberly Wiegand say Royal Caribbean should be blamed for not having safety precautions in place after their toddler daughter fell to her death.
/ Source: TODAY

The family of a toddler who died after falling out the window of a cruise ship in Puerto Rico earlier this month told TODAY in an exclusive interview that the cruise company's safety oversight "cost our child her life."

"We obviously blame them for not having a safer situation on the 11th floor of that cruise ship. There are a million things that could've been done to make that safer. I know my mom was asking people, 'Why on earth is there a window open on the 11th floor without a screen or anything?'" Chloe Wiegand's mother, Kimberly Wiegand, told Savannah Guthrie.

"And their response to that was, 'We need ventilation.' Well, to that I would say, 'Get a fan. Come up with some other mechanism to make your guests comfortable, rather than creating a tremendous safety hazard that cost our child her life.'"

The family is now looking to hold the company responsible in court.

"I think that they have to be,'' Wiegand said. "This cannot happen to another family."

"There's no doubt this was an accident," the family's attorney, Mike Winkleman, said. "Really the singular question is, were there safety measures that could have been in place and should have been in place? If they were in place, again, there would have been no tragedy."

Chloe Wiegand
Chloe Wiegand was 18 months old when she fell to her death from a cruise ship window earlier this month. Courtesy Kim and Alan Wiegand

Royal Caribbean responded to TODAY with a statement.

"We are deeply saddened by this incident, and our hearts go out to the family. We have assisted the authorities in San Juan with their inquiries, and they are the appropriate people to address further questions."

The Puerto Rico Department of Justice told NBC News the investigation is in its advanced stages, so it cannot make any additional comments.

Chloe, who was 18 months old, died on July 7 after she fell through an open window on the 11th floor of the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship while it was docked in San Juan.

Kimberly Wiegand recalled the awful moment she found out what happened.

"I didn't know that she went out a window,'' she said. "And I just kept saying, 'Take me to my baby. Where's my baby?' I didn't even notice a window. I ran over there, and I looked over, and it wasn't water down there, it was concrete. To lose our baby this way is just unfathomable."

Kimberly was joined in the interview by her husband, Alan. The couple from South Bend, Indiana, shared their memories of their little girl.

"I just know she was destined to do such great things,'' Kimberly said. "But even in her short life, I truly believe she changed so many lives."

Chloe Wiegand
Her parents remembered her as a friendly and loving spirit who could make anyone smile. Courtesy Kim and Alan Wiegand

Kimberly said her daughter loved watching her brother play hockey and helping her in the garden.

"She could get anybody to smile,'' she said. "Her first word was 'Hi.' I mean, she loved people."

The family has said the accident occurred after Chloe's grandfather picked her up and placed her on a railing he thought was behind a glass wall. They said her grandfather often did the same thing with her when they attended hockey games, letting her bang on the glass.

"He was extremely hysterical,'' Kimberly said. "The thing that he has repeatedly told us is, 'I believed that there was glass.' He will cry over and over and over. At no point ever, ever has Sam ever put our kids in danger.

"(He's) very, very distraught. You can barely look at him without him crying. She was his best friend."

Their family has been wrestling with their own pain from her loss.

"There was one point where my son said, 'Mom, I wish I would've been standing there because I would've jumped, and I would've saved her,'" Kimberly said. "That tore me because I know that he believes that. And to know he's living with that, it's just so hard."

The Wiegands will always hold their little girl in their hearts.

"We'll never forget her,'' Alan said. "She's part of our soul that's not there any more."

"It's really easy to shut out the world and to give up, but we will not do that because that's not who Chloe was,'' Kimberly said. "Chloe was the light, and that's what is going to get us through every single day. We have to go on for her. We can't give up."