American girl falls to her death from Freedom of the Seas cruise ship in Puerto Rico

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:
Royal Caribbean’s “Freedom of the Seas” cruise ship is seen docked in Bayonne, New Jersey, in a 2006 file photo AP

An American family’s cruise vacation has ended in tragedy with the death of a little girl who fell from the vessel at a port in Puerto Rico. A public security official in Puerto Rico told the Primera Hora newspaper that a man was holding his granddaughter up to an open window on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship as it was docked Sunday in San Juan, when he lost his grip.

The little girl, who was with her maternal and paternal grandparents and her immediate family on the ship owned by Florida-based Royal Caribbean cruise lines, fell the equivalent of 11 stories from a port-side window and hit an awning before eventually landing on pavement at the dock, according to Elmer Roman of the Puerto Rican Department of Public Security.

“It’s a very grave scene, very regrettable and tragic,” Roman told Primera Hora in a video interview on Sunday. “One of the grandfathers, whom it would appear was playing with the little girl, lifted her out of the open window and lost his grip.”

Owen Torres, Corporate Communications Manager for Royal Caribbean, told CBS News that the cruise operator was “deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family.” He added that the company had made its “Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need,” but would not be offering any further comment out of respect for their privacy.

Roman told Primera Hora that the Puerto Rican police’s homicide team was on the scene and intended to interview family members, but noted that the investigation was just beginning and would rely on any available security camera video in addition to interviews with family members and witnesses to determine what happened.

The ship was held at the Panamerican II dock on Sunday for hours after the incident, with the captain telling the passengers their departure would be delayed to allow for the investigation.

According to the Seascanner website, the Freedom of the Seas eventually left San Juan on Sunday evening at 8:30 p.m. local time with about 3,600 passengers. It was beginning a seven-day cruise around the Caribbean islands and was next scheduled to dock at Sint Maarten, a Dutch territory, later Monday morning.

Puerto Rican authorities did not identify the family involved in the incident, saying only that they were believed to be from Indiana. Roman indicated that the girl was between one and two years old.

Local authorities in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, were providing medical assistance and counselling to the family, Roman said.

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