Authorities in Puerto Rico have charged the grandfather of a toddler who fell to her death from an open cruise ship window with negligent homicide.
On July 7, Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas ship was docked in San Juan when Salvatore Anello placed 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand on a railing in a water play area 11 stories up, thinking the window behind her was closed. She loved to bang on the glass at her brother’s hockey games, and Anello expected she would do the same there. But the window was open. She fell some 115 feet to the ground.
Anello “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window,” according to a news release from Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice. The Indiana man turned himself in Monday, according to an attorney for family members, and a judge set bail at $80,000. Anello, who is married to Chloe’s maternal grandmother, posted bail and was allowed to return home Tuesday, the lawyer said through a representative. A preliminary hearing has been set for Nov. 20.
It was not clear who his defense attorney is.
“These criminal charges are pouring salt on the open wounds of this grieving family," Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the Wiegands in a planned civil suit against the Miami-based cruise line, said in a statement. "Clearly, this was a tragic accident, and the family’s singular goal remains for something like this to never happen again. Had the cruise lines simply followed proper safety guidelines for windows, this accident likely would never have happened.”
He said that Royal Caribbean has not provided surveillance video of the incident to the family.
Chloe’s parents, Kimberly and Alan Wiegand, blamed the cruise company in an interview with NBC News’s “Today” show. They said Anello, whom they call Sam, was overwhelmed with grief.
“He was extremely hysterical,” Kimberly 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.”
In a statement Tuesday, Royal Caribbean said, “This was a tragic incident, and out of respect for the family’s privacy, we refer you to authorities for further comment.”