Charging grandfather in girl’s cruise ship death “pouring salt” on family’s wounds, attorney says

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Via: CBS News

CBS News – The grandfather of a toddler who died after falling 11 stories from a cruise ship window in Puerto Rico has been charged in her death. Chloe Wiegand, 18 months old, fell in July when her grandfather Salvatore “Sam” Anello lifted her up to an open window.

Anello was handcuffed Monday and escorted by Puerto Rican police after being charged with negligent homicide. He was released on $80,000 bond.

Police hold him responsible for his granddaughter’s death, but the family blames the cruise line for the tragedy, CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan reports.

“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.

The Weigands say the 18-month-old loved banging on the glass at her brother’s hockey games. That’s why her grandfather sat her on a wooden rail in front of what he apparently thought was a wall of enclosed glass windows. But one window in the children’s play area was open, and Chloe fell out of Anello’s arms from the 11th story of the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship, operated by Royal Caribbean International.

“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.

Anello works in IT in South Bend, Indiana.

“People just love him here in the county,” said his boss, St. Joseph County auditor Mike Hamann.

Hamann described Anello as a selfless man. “He’s got a servant’s heart, as we say. And just one of the most wonderful human beings that you could ever meet,” Hamann said.

Chloe was traveling with her father, Alan Wiegand, who is a South Bend, Indiana, police officer, as well as her mother, Kimberly Wiegand, her siblings and both sets of grandparents.

“I mean you can barely look at him without him crying. She was his best friend,” Alan Wiegand said of Anello.

In July, Chloe’s parents told NBC News they want Royal Caribbean to be held accountable and defended Anello.

“He was extremely hysterical,” Kimberly Wiengang 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.”

Winkleman said Royal Caribbean has not given them the opportunity to view its surveillance video of the incident. He said they intend to file a lawsuit shortly.

Royal Caribbean told CBS News this was a tragic accident and referred to authorities for further comment, but authorities did not immediately respond.