Indiana toddler cruise death: Grieving parents stand by grandfather, say negligent homicide charge is like 'pouring salt' on open wounds
18-month-old child, Chloe Wiegand, died in July after falling 150ft from an open window on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship onto a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The grandfather of the Indiana toddler who died after falling 11 stories through an open window on a cruise ship was handcuffed and escorted by Puerto Rican police as he was charged in his death. The news left the family devastated as their attorney likened the charges of negligent homicide with "pouring salt on the open wounds."
The 18-month-old child, Chloe Wiegand, died in July after falling 150ft from an open window on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship onto a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Seconds before the tragedy, the toddler's grandfather, Salvatore 'Sam' Anello, had held her to a "wall of windows" so that she could bang on the glass, something that the toddler reportedly loved to do. However, the window Anello had held the child up to had been slid open, causing the child to fall onto the deck from the 11th floor.
Although the family has blamed the cruise line for the tragedy, the Puerto Rican authorities have held the grandfather responsible for the child's death, charging him with negligent homicide.
An attorney for the family, Michael Winkleman, said: "They find it unnecessary and unfair, and it's really pouring salt on the open wounds of this grieving family," according to CBS News. "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."
Anello, who has been released on $80,000 bond, works in IT in South Bend, Indiana. His boss St. Joseph County auditor Mike Hamann released a statement after his arrest, saying: "People just love him here in the county." He also described Anello as a selfless man: "He's got a servant's heart, as we say. And just one of the most wonderful human beings that you could ever meet."
The child's parents, in an interview days after the tragedy, had revealed how distraught the grandfather was after the incident and had to be sedated because he had become "hysterical" after Chloe's fall.
"He was extremely hysterical. The thing he repeatedly told us was, I believed there was glass. He would cry, over and over," mother Kimberly Wiegand said. "At no point ever, ever, has Sam put our kids in any danger."
"He was very, very distraught," the child's father Alan Wiegand added. "You can barely look at him without him crying. She was his best friend."