SAN JUAN, PR – (WIAT & CBS) The grandfather of a toddler who died after falling from a cruise ship window appeared in court Wednesday in Puerto Rico.
Salvatore Anello is charged with negligent homicide in the death of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand.
The little girl fell more than 115 feet, through one of the windows of the 11th floor of the cruise ship back in July. Authorities say Anello lifted her up to an open window while the Royal Caribbean ship was docked in San Juan.
According to the family’s attorney, Anello thought the window was closed.
The judge was expected to set a trial date for Anello, but he appeared in court.
Chloe’s family is shocked Puerto Rican prosecutors are holding Anello responsible, their attorney said.
“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,” said Michael Winkleman, the family’s attorney. “They’re shocked because they think it’s groundless. … They certainly didn’t want charges to be filed.”
Winkleman, who is not representing Anello in the criminal case, said despite the family wishes, prosecutors are pushing forward.
The accident was caught on surveillance camera, and although Winkleman thinks the grandfather is not criminally responsible, the prosecutors may be seeing something else, he said.
“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,” he said.
The video has not been released.
The secretary of Justice, Dennise Longo Quiñones, the chief of Prosecutors, Arlene Gardón Rivera, together with the district attorney of the San Juan Víctor Carbonell Prosecutor’s Office, reported Monday that charges against Salvatore Anello were filed for negligent manslaughter, Article 96 of the Code Penal.
Chloe’s family is pointing the finger squarely at Royal Caribbean, accusing the cruise liner of creating a fatal safety hazard. And they’re planning to sue.
Winkleman said the little girl’s grandfather has already been punished enough with the tragic death of his granddaughter.
Royal Caribbean issued a short statement saying because they expect a lawsuit to be filed, they have no comment. They believe what happened was a tragic accident.