The Indiana man whose 1-year-old granddaughter plunged to her death from a cruise ship could face criminal charges in the tragedy — as the family denies initial reports that it was the grandfather’s fault.
Chloe Wiegand’s family blames Royal Caribbean for what they say was negligence in her fatal fall Sunday from the docked boat in Puerto Rico, the “Today” show reported Tuesday.
The toddler was on vacation with her parents, two siblings and both sets of grandparents when she fell from a window on the 11th floor to the concrete on the Pan American dock II in San Juan.
Officials at the port said her grandad, Salvetore Anello, let Chloe slip through his arms near an open window. But a lawyer for the family told a different story, claiming the girl fell from a wooden railing in the children’s play area.
“Essentially her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where thinks that there is glass there because it’s clear, but it turns out there was no glass there,” attorney Michael Winkleman said Tuesday.
He said the little girl went to knock on the large windows — as she would’ve at one of her brother’s hockey games — and the “next thing you know, she’s gone.”
“Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall of windows in a kids’ area?” Winkleman said. “Why would you have that kind of hidden danger without any warning, without any sign, [or] without any notice?”
It’s unclear why the window wasn’t shut. Windows can’t be opened by passengers on newer ships, but this wasn’t the case on the 2006 vessel Freedom of the Seas, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Anello is under investigation to determine whether to file negligence charges against him, news station WSBT reported. His wife may also face lesser charges in the incident, Puerto Rico news outlet El Vocero reported.
Winkleman, however, said the security footage from the ship will ultimately clear the family of any wrongdoing, according to the South Bend Tribune.
“I think there is going to be blame and significant blame on the cruise line and I’m going to do everything I can to hold them accountable for what appears to be negligence,” Winkleman said.
Royal Caribbean said in a statement Monday: “We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family. We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need. Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident.”