Family Stands by Grandfather Charged in Girl’s Cruise Ship Death

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Via: People Magazine
By Greg Hanlon and Helen Murphy

People Magazine – ‘Salt in Open Wounds,’ Says Lawyer

1-year-old Chloe Wiegand died this summer while aboard a cruise ship

The family of the 1-year-old who fell to her death last July on a cruise ship stands by the girl’s grandfather after he was charged Monday with negligent homicide, their attorney tells PEOPLE.

“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,” attorney Michael Winkleman tells PEOPLE.

Winkleman says the girl’s death was an accident and not a crime. “There’s a feeling of shock as to why the charges were even filed,” says the attorney.

Indiana 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand died after falling more than 10 stories onto a concrete dock while in the children’s play area of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which was docked in Puerto Rico.

Prosecutors allege that Anello “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor,” according to a statement from the Puerto Rican Department of Justice obtained by PEOPLE.

Initial reports said Chloe fell out of the arms of grandfather Salvatore Anello, 51. But Winkleman says Anello put Chloe up on a wood railing beside what he thought was a wall of closed windows, unaware that a sliding window was open. He says Chloe liked to bang on glass panels at her older brother’s hockey games, and when she went to bang on what appeared to be closed windows, she fell.

“It’s pouring salt in their open wounds,” Winkleman says of the charges. “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 was being held on an $80,000 bond, according to the statement from prosecutors. He is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 20.

Winkleman tells PEOPLE Anello “is doing terribly” after his arrest and was on a flight back home to Indiana as of press time. He says Anello “would never do something that would have .00001 percent chance to endanger Chloe,” adding that her death is “going to haunt him for the rest of his life.”

Chloe’s parents, Alan and Kimberly Wiegand, spoke out in an interview with the Today show in July, defending Anello.

“He was extremely hysterical. The thing that he has repeatedly told us is, ‘I believed that there was glass,'” Kimberly said. “He will cry over and over and over. At no point ever — ever — has [he] ever put our kids in danger.”

Alan said that Anello was “very distraught,” to the point where you could “barely look at him without him crying.”

“[Chloe] was his best friend,” Alan added.

Anello’s attorney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Family Preparing Lawsuit Against Royal Caribbean

Kimberly added at the time that she thinks Royal Caribbean “[has] to be” responsible for the incident, saying, “This cannot happen to another family.”

“We obviously blame them,” she said. “There are a million things that could’ve been done to make that safer. I know my mom was asking people, ‘Why on Earth is there a window open on the 11th floor without a screen or anything?'”

“And their response to that was, ‘We need ventilation,'” Kimberly claimed. “Well, to that I would say, ‘Get a fan. Come up with some other mechanism to make your guests comfortable, rather than creating a tremendous safety hazard that cost our child her life.'”

In a previous statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean said the company is “deeply saddened” by the incident, adding, “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.”

Royal Caribbean did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment on Tuesday.

Winkleman tells PEOPLE the family is preparing a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean but have not yet filed it because they have not yet accessed the CCTV footage that shows Chloe falling out the window.

He says “there are safety regulations that exist regarding windows to prevent children from falling out.”

“If you’re going to not follow those regulations, put a warning on the windows,” he adds.