Note: Chloe Wiegand's obituary can be read in its entirety at the bottom of the page.
The family of an 18-month-old Indiana toddler who died after falling from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship last week penned a heartbreaking obituary for the little girl, remembering her as "the smartest and happiest baby" who "could make anyone grin."
Chloe Wiegand "loved to give hugs and blow kisses, even to strangers," her family wrote. "Though she was not on this earth long enough, her smile, beauty, and kindness changed every life she encountered. She could make anyone grin with just a glace of her beautiful face and huge brown eyes."
Chloe, of South Bend, Indiana, died on July 7 when she plunged from the 11th floor of the Freedom of the Seas ship to the concrete on the Pan American dock II in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Traveling with her parents, two siblings and two sets of grandparents, Chloe was playing on the ship's H2O Zone kids water park, accompanied by her maternal grandfather Salvatore Anello, family attorney Michael Winkleman told NBC News.
Winkleman said Anello recounted through tears that Chloe wandered to a glass wall and asked to be lifted up, so he placed her on a railing that he believed was behind glass. Chloe loved cheering on her 10-year-old brother at his hockey games, often by slamming on the rink's glass panels - a tradition that her family's attorney said she tried to replicate, which led to the tragedy.
"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," Winkleman said. "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."
Chloe's family said in her obituary that she was a Notre Dame hockey fan but her "favorite player" was her brother.
"She watched from the stands at countless games and practices and was everyone's favorite team mascot. Every teammate was a brother to Chloe," her obituary reads. "She had the opportunity to ice skate twice herself."
Chloe loved swimming, spaghetti, the movie "Frozen" and helping her mom in the garden, among many other things, her family wrote. And as a "true child of this generation, Chloe could work a cell phone better than both of her parents."
"Chloe was loved and cherished beyond measure every single moment of her life," her family said. "This crippling and devastating loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be repaired. We hold her in our hearts and memories and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. The world was a better place because Chloe existed in it, even for a short time."
The family's attorney said Chloe's parents want answers as to why a glass window was open in the children's play area. Winkleman said he felt there were grounds for a lawsuit and if no good answers were provided, then Royal Caribbean would be "on the hook."
"We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family," Royal Caribbean's communications manager Owen Torres said in a statement immediately following Chloe's death. "Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident."
Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman José Carmona told The Associated Press officials are investigating whether the window was already opened or if someone had opened it.
"We regret the sad event that occurred on the Freedom of the Seas cruise and we sympathize with the family of the girl who died," Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety said in a statement. Puerto Rico's secretary for public affairs said the agency is "working on the case with the seriousness and sensitivity it requires."
Chloe's family held a memorial service for her on Monday in Granger, Indiana, according to her obituary, which ended with a note of gratitude from her family "for the thoughts, prayers, and kindness shown to them during this time of extreme grief."
Chloe Wiegand's obituary in full reads as follows:
Chloe Rae Margaret Wiegand, also known as Coco and Margs, almost 19 months, tragically passed away while on a family vacation in Puerto Rico this past Sunday, July 7, 2019.
Chloe was the beloved daughter of Alan Wiegand and Kimberly Schultz Wiegand.
She was born December 13, 2017, in South Bend, Indiana weighing merely four pounds, six ounces and was cared for by the Beacon Children’s Hospital, Newborn Intensive Care Unit. Even at birth, Chloe was a true fighter, overcoming every medical obstacle she faced.
Left to cherish Chloe’s memory are her parents, Alan and Kimberly and brother, Wyatt Amm, all of Granger; maternal grandparents, Salvatore and Patti Anello of Niles, Michigan and Scott and Annie Schultz of Zelienople, Pennsylvania; and paternal grandparents, Thomas and Mary Ann Wiegand of Angola, Indiana.
She is survived by her aunts and uncles: Shannon and Hayden Schultz, Joseph and Tammy Wiegand, and Robert and Ann Antos; and great-aunt, Frances Holladay.
Chloe is also survived by her loving great-grandmother, Nola Schultz.
Chloe had a very large family with over twenty cousins who cherished her dearly.
Though she was not on this earth long enough, her smile, beauty, and kindness changed every life she encountered. She could make anyone grin with just a glance of her beautiful face and huge brown eyes. Chloe loved to give hugs and blow kisses, even to strangers.
Her favorite movie was Frozen, and she enjoyed singing and dancing as she watched at least three times a day. She listened to “Baby Shark” on an endless loop.
Her best friend was her dog, Penny Rosabell, with whom she surreptitiously shared many snacks and kisses.
Swimming was her favorite pastime and she took weekly lessons with her father.
A foodie at heart, Chloe’s favorite entree was spaghetti, which she devoured at every opportunity.
Chloe was a Notre Dame hockey fan, although her favorite player was her ten year old brother, Wyatt. She watched from the stands at countless games and practices and was everyone’s favorite team mascot. Every teammate was a brother to Chloe.
She had the opportunity to ice skate twice herself.
Chloe loved helping her mom in the garden and watered her flowers daily.
Each morning, Chloe pretended to do her makeup while her mother got ready for work.
A true child of this generation, Chloe could work a cell phone better than both of her parents.
She loved chasing bubbles, splash pads, and slides. Every person who encountered her said that Chloe was the smartest and happiest baby they had ever seen. And she genuinely was.
Chloe was loved and cherished beyond measure every single moment of her life. This crippling and devastating loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be repaired. We hold her in our hearts and memories and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. The world was a better place because Chloe existed in it, even for a short time.
A memorial service to celebrate Chloe will be held Monday, July 15 at 2pm, with visitation directly following until 8pm., at the McGann Hay, Granger Chapel, 13260 SR 23, enter off Cherry Rd.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Beacon Children’s Hospital for the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, www.beaconhealthsystem.org/foundation/give-now/ or to the USA Hockey Foundation, www.usahockeyfoundation.com/donatenow.
To send condolences to the family, please visit www.McGannHay.com. The family wishes to express their sincere gratitude for the thoughts, prayers, and kindness shown to them during this time of extreme grief. We ask that people continue to hold Chloe in their hearts and to lift up her brother in prayer.
To send private condolences, please visit www.McGannHay.com