A grandfather has been charged with negligent homicide after he allegedly dropped his 18 month old granddaughter out of an 11th floor window on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Puerto Rico.
The terrible tragedy caught the attention of the world, and divided cruise passengers after the family blamed the line and called for all windows to be closed.
The family say they will stand by Salvatore “Sam” Anello, who could face six years in prison if he is convicted. And they pledged to continue their lawsuit against Royal Caribbean.
It was on Sunday July 7 that Mr Anello was on board the family cruise ship Freedom of the Seas with his daughter and son in law and their three children, including toddler Chloe. Mr Anello claimed he was playing a familiar game with his granddaughter, holding her against a window for her to bang on the glass.
However, the window was open and toddler Chloe, fell straight through.
Chloe’s mother, Kimberley Wiegand, and her police officer husband Alan were on board the ship at the time of the incident and have since spoken to the media of their grief and horror during what was supposed to be the family holiday of a lifetime.
“I didn’t know that she went out a window,” she said through tears during the interview with US Today.
“I just saw Sam standing next to the wall of windows just screaming and banging on it. There was somebody from Royal Caribbean they kept trying to stop me. I just kept saying take me to my baby, where is my baby? I didn’t even notice the window,” she said.
“I looked over it and it wasn’t water down there, it was concrete. Honestly to lose our baby this way is just unfathomable,” Mrs Wiegand said.
A judge ordered the arrest of Mr Anello, who is facing a charge of negligent homicide. He is now being held on an $A116,000 bond and will appear in court on November 20.
At the time of the horror incident in July, Mr Anello blamed Royal Caribbean for failing to close the window inside the child’s play area.
According to witnesses onboard they heard a “cry of pain” and wails of agony from Mr Anello and several other family members on the ship.
The Wiegand family travelled from Indiana to cruise around the Southern Caribbean islands – a journey that started and ended in the harbor-side town of San Juan in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico local media outlet El Vocero, have reported some witnesses were so hysterical after Chloe’s death that they had to be sedated by medics.
Questions around whether Mr Anello’s negligence led to Chloe’s death were quickly defused by the family in the weeks following the tragedy.
Anello was handcuffed Monday and escorted by Puerto Rican police after being charged with negligent homicide. He was released on $116,000 bond.
Police are holding him responsible for his granddaughter’s death, but the family blames the cruise line for the tragedy, according to the family attorney.
“They find it unnecessary and unfair, and it’s really pouring salt on the open wounds of this grieving family,” said Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the family.
“Had Royal Caribbean simply followed the rules and regulations that are designed precisely to prevent children from falling out of windows, we wouldn’t be here talking about any of this,” Winkleman said.
Chloe’s father Alan has commented on his late daughter’s relationship with her grandfather. “I mean you can barely look at him without him crying. She was his best friend,” Mr Wiegand said.
In July, Chloe’s parents stated in a media interview they want Royal Caribbean to be held accountable and defended Anello.
“He was extremely hysterical,” Mrs Wiegand said. “The thing that he has repeatedly told us is, ‘I believed that there was glass.’ He will cry over and over. At no point ever, ever has Sam ever put our kids in danger.”
Family Attorney, Mr Winkleman says Royal Caribbean has not given them the opportunity to view its surveillance video of the incident and that the family intends to file a lawsuit shortly.
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