Via: News Week
The family of an 18-month old girl who died after falling 150 feet from a cruise ship window are still “devastated” that prosecutors are demanding her grandfather is convicted for her death.
Salvatore Anello, 50, has appeared in a Puerto Rico court for the first time on November 20 charged with the negligent homicide of his granddaughter Chloe Wiegand, who died after falling from the 11th floor of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas while it was docked in San Juan on July 7.
During his brief appearance, no evidence was presented as the judge allowed the prosecution and defense more time to prepare ahead of his next court date on December 17, when a trial date will be set.
The family of the 18-month girl has long maintained that her death was an accident and Anello is not criminally responsible.
Police originally alleged that Chloe fell from Anello’s grasp as he held her up to the window. Chloe’s parents, Alan and Kimberly Wiegand, said the child accidentally fell through the window, which Anello didn’t realize was open, after he placed her on a rail so she could bang on it.
The family said Chloe liked to lean and bang against the glass at her brother’s ice hockey games.
Speaking to CBS, the family’s attorney Michael Winkleman said they are still heartbroken that the 50-year-old could be prosecuted over her death.
“The family’s really not doing well. I think they’re really devastated by the fact that these charges have been filed and that this case continues to go forward,” Winkleman said.
“They’re shocked because they think it’s groundless…They certainly didn’t want charges to be filed.”
Surveillance footage taken from the child’s play area on the 11th floor where Chloe fell looks set to provide key evidence in the case. Despite continuous requests from the family and Winkleman, Royal Caribbean has not released the footage to the public.
“You have to assume that it shows something that really led the Puerto Rican authorities to believe there was criminal offense, so clearly there’s something in that video,” said Winkleman, who is not representing Anello.
Lead prosecutor Laura Hernandez Gutierrez said the surveillance footage could be used as evidence, but confirmed it would not be made public until the trial, reports the The Daily Mail.
“What I can tell you is that we have initiated this criminal procedure because we have the evidence to sustain the charges pressed,” Hernandez Gutierrez added outside the San Juan Superior Court.
Both the family and Winkleman said the blame for Chloe’s death lies with the Royal Caribbean.
“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,” Winkelman previously told CBS.
“We have a lot of questions,” Kimberly Wiegand said in an interview with NBC’s Today show in July.
“Primarily, why is there an open window in the kid’s play area 11 stories off the ground? We obviously blame them for not having a safer situation on the 11th floor of that cruise ship. There are a million things that could’ve been done to make that safer.”
The family are planning to sue to cruise line company over Chloe’s death.
In a statement to Newsweek, Royal Caribbean said: “This was a tragic incident. Out of respect for the family’s privacy during this very sad time, and because the government has chosen to charge Mr. Salvatore Anello with negligent homicide in a matter now before the courts, we have no further comment.”