A new court filing submitted by the parents of a toddler Chloe Wiegand, who died aboard a Caribbean cruise ship in 2019, alleges that the cruise line intentionally destroyed video footage.
MailOnline reports that Chloe’s parents, Alan and Kimberly Wiegand, are seeking a “spoliation of evidence” default judgment after claiming Caribbean Cruise Lines intentionally destroyed evidence that may have found the cruise line culpable for Chloe’s death.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Chloe, an 18-month-old from Granger, Indiana, was on a cruise with her family when she lost her life aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship. The ship was docked in Puerto Rico at the time of the incident, on July 7, 2019.
Chloe died after falling from the 11th floor and landing on the hard, concrete surface of the Pan American dock. She was playing with her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, in the children’s H2O Zone children’s water park when she fell from an open window.
Anello, who often accompanied Chloe to her brothers’ hockey games, where she enthusiastically banged on the hockey rink glass panel, said he lifted the girl up at her request while they were in the play area. He said Chloe slipped from his grip and her death was an accident.
In November 2019, San Juan Investigations Chamber Judge Jimmy Sepúlveda ruled that prosecutors provided probable cause for the arrest of Anello.
Although Anello initially pleaded not guilty to a negligent homicide charge, he changed his mind. He claimed wanted to plead guilty so his family could get closure and begin the healing process, NBC News reports.
Earlier this week, Anello was sentenced to three years of probation. The Wiegand family’s attorney, Michael Winkleman, said the plea deal meant “no jail time and no admission of facts.”
Meanwhile, Chloe’s parents allege that the cruise line likely opened the window that Chloe fell from, then destroyed evidence so that Anello would take the blame.
Elton Koopman, the boat’s former Chief Security Officer, “personally witnessed repeated incidents of fall hazards involving the pool deck windows,” according to court documents.
The Wiegands said they specifically asked to see who opened the window and why, but allege that the footage was purposely destroyed before they had the chance.
“Less than 48 hours after the incident, on July 9, 2019, plaintiff’s counsel requested in writing that Royal Caribbean preserve ‘any and all video depicting the area of the incident for 12 hours prior to the incident,'” the plaintiffs’ motion read.
“Again the following day, on July 10, 2019, the Coast Guard requested CCTV footage showing who opened the window and when it was opened.
‘The Captain ignored the Coast Guard’s question as to whether there was CCTV showing who opened the window. And the Captain ignored the Coast guard’s request to provide them CCTV footage of the windows being opened.”
Royal Caribbean Cruises previously file a motion in response to the first lawsuit filing in January 2020. The cruise line indicated that video footage showed Anello leaning over the ledge at the window and looking out before he picked his granddaughter up and held her by it. Within minutes, Anello lost his grasp and Chloe fell.
However, the plaintiffs allege that a crew member of the cruise line was likely responsible for opening the window in the first place.
“The CCTV was destroyed because it was fatal to Royal Caribbean’s defense and would have exonerated Mr. Anello,” the motion read. “The video likely shows that a crewmember opened the window and thus created the very condition that led to Chloe’s death. This is not a narrative Royal Caribbean would allow.”
It could take several months for a ruling on the motion.
“This is not some freak accident,” family lawyer Michael Winkleman preciously told NBC News. “This is something that was a preventable accident…These windows are entirely not compliant with the standard for windows on cruise ships.”
Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Chloe Wiegand/Family Handout]