A man from Indiana may face negligence charges after dropping his 18-month-old granddaughter from a cruise ship deck in Puerto Rico on Sunday, resulting in the child’s death.
The Royal Caribbean ship Freedom of the Seas was docked after a seven-day Caribbean cruise, and Salvatore Anello was with his granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand, in a children’s play area that was mostly enclosed by clear glass paneling.
Anello placed Chloe on a railing that he believed was behind glass so she could see outside, the family’s lawyer Michael Winkleman told NBC News.
“Essentially, her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where he thinks that there is glass there because it’s clear, but it turns out there was no glass there,” he said. “She goes to bang on the glass like she would have at one of those hockey rinks, and the next thing you know, she’s gone.”
Chloe dropped 150 feet onto the dock and died on impact, according to Inside Edition.
Authorities said on Monday that they are investigating whether to charge Anello with negligence for dropping the little girl, but his family isn’t blaming him for Chloe’s tragic death.
Winkleman told NBC News the family doesn’t understand why there was an open window along the wall of glass panels.
“Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kids’ area?” he asked.
Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman José Carmona told The Associated Press that officials are also investigating whether the window was already opened or if someone had opened it.
Royal Caribbean spokesman Owen Torres told CBS News that the cruise operator was “deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family.”
He said the company has offered to assist the family with any resources they need, but out of respect for their privacy would not comment further.
The AP reported that the child’s family will remain in Puerto Rico until the investigation is complete.
Police Sgt. Nelson Sotelo said officers have not been able to interview any relatives yet because “they’re in shock.”
Indiana TV station WSBT reports that Chloe was the daughter of South Bend police officer Alan Wiegand, while Anello is an IT worker living in Valparaiso.
South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg tweeted out this condolence message to the girl’s family: