PUERTO RICO (WXIN) – Royal Caribbean says a northern Indiana man knew a window was open just moments before he picked up his step-granddaughter and lost his grip.
18-month-old Chloe Wiegand fell to her death in July. Her family is suing the cruise line for negligence.
According to court documents, Royal Caribbean says video shows Salvatore Anello knew the window was open, even saying he leaned his upper body out that window before picking up Chloe.
Court documents say: “This is not a case of an unknowing child approaching an open window and falling out because the window was defective or improperly positioned. Rather, this is a case about an adult man, Chloe’s step grandfather who, as surveillance footage unquestionably confirms: (1) walked up to a window he was aware was open; (2) leaned his upper body out the window for several seconds; (3) reached down and picked up Chloe; and (4) then held her by and out of the open window for thirty four seconds before he lost his grip and dropped Chloe out of the window.”
Royal Caribbean also included images from their surveillance video in the lawsuit. They say there were two closed-circuit television cameras which captured the events leading to the fall.
According to Royal Caribbean, the still shots taken from the videos show Anello, wearing a dark short sleeve shirt (see red circle) following Chloe, wearing a white hat (see second red circle), towards the open window on Deck 11.
When he arrives at the open window, and while Chloe is on the floor, Anello leans his upper-torso over the wooden railing and out of the window frame for approximately eight seconds.
Next, Anello leans down and picks Chloe up, lifting her over the wooden rail towards the open window.
Anello stays in front of the open window, which was 11 decks high off the ground, while holding Chloe for approximately 34 seconds before she fell.
Royal Caribbean says the "only reasonable conclusion from the video" is that Anello knew the window was open before lifting Chloe over the wooden rail and holding her out the open window for a "considerable period," thus "recklessly endangering her life."
Anello says he's colorblind and didn't realize the 11th story window was open, but Royal Caribbean says video evidence proves it doesn't matter because he knew the window was open.
Anello is charged with negligent homicide in Puerto Rico.
The Wiegands' attorney Michael Winkleman issued this statement:
The Wiegands are in the process of responding to Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss. In short, Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss is baseless and deceptive. It is clear that Royal Caribbean’s tactic is to blame Chloe’s grandfather rather than to accept that Royal Caribbean did not implement industry standards for toddler safety aboard its ships which ultimately led to Chloe’s tragic death. Royal Caribbean has premised its defense in this case and its blame on Chloe’s grandfather by supplying two deceptive views from its CCTV cameras to the court and the Puerto Rico authorities. However, the Plaintiffs were first permitted a vessel inspection of the scene of the incident on January 10 – less than a week after Royal Caribbean first informed the Wiegands that they are making modifications to the ship that will destroy the subject area where the incident occurred. That inspection has revealed that Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss neglects to tell the Court and, presumably, the authorities that there were no less than THIRTEEN CCTV video cameras in the area of the incident. The Wiegands will ask the Court to compel Royal Caribbean to produce all the video from those nearby cameras.
Further, the Wiegands’ response to Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss will definitively show what the Wiegands have said since day one: that Chloe’s grandfather never knew there was an open window and never knowingly put Chloe in harms way. Had Royal Caribbean simply abided by industry standards designed to protect toddlers, this tragedy would not have occurred.