The grandfather of a toddler who fell to her death from the 11th floor of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico this past summer has been charged with negligent homicide.
On Monday, a judge in Puerto Rico ordered Salvatore “Sam” Anello to be placed under arrest for his part in the incident, as evidence suggests that 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand died after Anello lifted her up to an open window, causing her to fall, according to Fox News.
The little girl’s parents, however, have said that they hold no ill will against her grandfather, instead directing blame at the Royal Caribbean cruise line.
“At no point ever, ever, has Sam ever put our kids in danger,” Chloe’s mother, Kimberly Wiegand, told NBC’s “Today” following the tragic accident.
“She was his best friend,” she added.
The family’s attorney, Michael Winkleman, released a statement to WSBT, in which he elaborated on the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding Chloe’s death.
“Chloe wanted to bang on the glass like she always did at her older brothers hockey games. Her grandfather thought there was glass just like everywhere else, but there was not, and she was gone in an instant.”
“The family needs answers as to why there would be an open window in a wall full of fixed windows in a kids’ play area? Why would you have the danger without any warning, sign, or notice?”
The child’s grandfather, the husband of her maternal grandmother, was devastated by the incident, according to Chloe’s parents.
“He was extremely hysterical,” Kimberly Wiegand told NBC.
“The thing that he has repeatedly told us is, ‘I believed that there was glass,'” Wiegand said. “He will cry over and over and over.”
Following the little girl’s death, many of Anello’s friends and colleagues have come forward to vouch for his character.
“People just love him here in the county,” his boss, St. Joseph County auditor Mike Hamann told CBS News of Anello, who’s an IT worker in South Bend, Indiana.
“He’s got a servant’s heart, as we say. And just one of the most wonderful human beings that you could ever meet.”
Chloe’s parents believe criminal charges will simply bring additional pain to their family in the wake of what has already been a deeply distressing few months.
“They find it unnecessary and unfair, and it’s really pouring salt on the open wounds of this grieving family,” Winkleman told CBS.
“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,” he added.
UPDATE: “He (grandfather) was literally telling me the story through tears, and he literally thought there was glass there.”
The attorney for Chloe Wiegand’s family speaks after the cruise ship tragedy. He says this could have been prevented. pic.twitter.com/gi57EJt75d
— Kim Shine (@KimShineWNDU) July 9, 2019
“We have a lot of questions,” Kimberly Wiegand told NBC. “There are a million things that could have been done to make that safer.”
The family plans to do their best to move forward, holding on to their happy memories of Chloe and drawing close to Anello to offer support.
“Chloe was the light,” her mother said. “We have to go on for her.”
Anello was released on $80,000 bond and will appear in court on Nov. 20, according to Fox News.
When reached for comment, Royal Caribbean spokesman Jonathon Fishman told The Western Journal: “This was a tragic incident and out of respect for the family’s privacy we refer you to authorities for further comment.”
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