The tragic case of the toddler who lost her life when her grandfather allegedly let her slip so she fell through the window of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas has taken another dramatic turn this week.
The case has the cruise industry watching, as it could lead to even tighter regulations of how cruise ships with children on board manage facilities like open windows. Any moves to make it mandatory that windows are locked shut would be opposed by many lines and cruise passengers.
Grandfather Salvatore Anello appeared in court this week where he is charged with negligent homicide, and pictures of his lawyers taking measurements at the window where the 18-month-old lost her life also emerged in on website dailymail.com.
Chloe Wiegand’s family have pleaded with the Puerto Rican authorities to let Mr Anello free, saying he is innocent and the family has not been able to grieve together.
Alan and Kimberly Wiegand claim the findings of a private probe into the circumstances o Chloe’s plunge from the 11th storey of the ships proves it was ‘physically impossible’ for Mr Anello to have dangled her overboard, as has been claimed.
‘We respectfully ask the Puerto Rican prosecutors to take a hard look at the new evidence that has come to light,’ Alan and Kimberly said in a statement given exclusively to DailyMail.com. ‘It shows what we have known all along, that Sam thought it was a wall of glass.
‘We have never wanted charges filed against Sam because we know with all of our hearts that he would never put Chloe in harm’s way.
‘We will stand with Sam as long as it takes – but we cannot grieve as a family until the criminal charges are dropped.’
The Wiegand’s legal team boarded the Royal Caribbean ship on January 10th and found 13 cameras trained on the area where the incident had happened.
Two shots have been so far made public – one, it is claimed, shows the grandfather pushing his head through the open window.
Mr Anello has always maintained he thought the window was shut when he put Chloe on a balustrade next to what he thought was tinted glass.
Alan and Kimberly maintained their investigators have proved that it was ‘physically impossible’ for Mr Anello to have dangled the child out of the window due to a gap between a handrail and the window. He would have to have been seven inches off the ground at the time.
Mr Anello has been scheduled to appear before Judge Gisela Alfonso Fernandez on February 24 when a trial date may be set.
The charge could carries a three year prison sentence.
Mr Anello and the family, who are taking action for compensation against Royal Caribbean claiming the window was wrongly left open, claim he did not realise the window was open, and he has difficulty telling the difference between the tinted windows because he is colorblind.
Chloe’s family have always accepted his explanation and instead blame Royal Caribbean, insisting the cruise giant breached industry-wide safety laws by not having signs or decals warning the panels could be slid open.
Dr Marcel Alexander Armand Van Drunick has given a statement to the police saying when he arrived on the ship’s 11th deck, the area was “in chaos”.
also recalled how he quizzed the grandfather minutes after the tragedy.
‘The grandfather was being escorted (assisted on both sides, from other people) crying and sobbing,’ his statement says.
‘The grandfather collapsed on his hands and knees in the corner of the elevator. He was distraught sobbing, crying, saying: ‘I dropped my baby, I dropped my baby.’
‘I bent down and asked him what happened. While he was crying he just said: ‘I thought the window was closed’.’
Royal Caribbean maintains Mr Anello knew the window was open.
‘The death of Chloe Wiegand is undeniably a heartbreaking tragedy that has prompted a criminal prosecution of Chloe’s step-grandfather and a civil lawsuit brought by the Wiegand family attorneys.’ the cruise operator says.
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