The grandfather of Chloe Wiegand, a toddler girl who fell to her death aboard a cruise ship in July, has been charged with homicide. His family, however, is standing behind him. They say he would have never purposely hurt his grandchild.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, San Juan Investigations Chamber Judge Jimmy Sepúlveda ruled that prosecutors provided probable cause for the arrest of Salvatore Anello, the grandfather of Chloe.
Anello was playing with Chloe board the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship on July 7, when she fell through an open window on the 11th floor of the ship.
Chloe dropped downward over l00 feet and landed on the hard, concrete surface of the Pan American dock. According to court documents, Anello and Chloe were in the children’s H2O Zone children’s water park when the incident occurred.
Anello, who often accompanied Chloe to her brothers’ hockey games, where she enthusiastically banged on the hockey rink glass panel, apparently lifted the girl up at her request while in the play area and sat her on the ledge. He reportedly thought the window behind Chloe was protected by a glass wall.
While authorities think Anello’s actions align with negligent homicide, his family thinks otherwise.
“They feel devastated and distraught. They stand 100 percent behind [the grandfather] and his version of events that he thought this was a wall of windows,” lawyer Michael Winkleman told PEOPLE.
There’s a feeling of shock as to why the charges were even filed. -Michael Winkleman
Winkleman added that the family was in the process of grieving the loss of Chloe when prosecutors charged Anello. The lawyer said it was like “pouring salt in their open wounds.”
“They’re in the beginning stages of a lengthy process that is grief. They were trying to put their lives back together, and you throw this into the mix and it puts them back to square one.”
Anello made $80,000 bail and is now home, but he’s “doing terribly,” according to Winkleman. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 20.
Meanwhile, Chloe’s family, who blame the cruise line for her death, are preparing a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean. Chloe’s parents, Alan and Kimberly Wiegand, both agreed that the cruise line should have never left an open window near a children’s play area.
This cannot happen to another family,” Kimberly Wiegand said during a July interview with NBC’s “Today” show. “We obviously blame them for not having a safer situation on the 11th floor of that cruise ship.”
Royal Carribean declined to comment on the upcoming lawsuit.
“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.”
Winkleman added that the lawsuit hasn’t been filed yet because he doesn’t have the CCTV of the incident, something he has been trying to obtain for months.
“There’s no doubt this was an accident,” Mike Winkleman told NBC. “Really the singular question is, were there safety measures that could have been in place and should have been in place? If they were in place, again, there would have been no tragedy.”
Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Chloe Wiegand/Family Handout]