The grandfather of a toddler who fell to her death on a cruise ship "unquestionably" knew the window was open before he held the 18-month-old up to it and lost his grip, the cruise line claims in a court filing.
Royal Caribbean Cruises filed a motion this month asking the federal court in the Southern District of Florida to dismiss a suit by the family of the toddler, Chloe Rae Margaret Wiegand, who died July 7, from a 150-foot fall on a docked vessel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The family announced in December that it was suing Royal Caribbean, claiming that warning signs about open windows could have prevented the toddler's death.
The family said the little girl wanted to bang on a window's glass, as she did at the rink at her brother's hockey games. So, grandfather Salvatore Anello lifted her up to a window pane, believing it was closed, the family claims.
Anello is color blind and couldn't have seen that the window, part of a bank of green-tinted windows on the ship’s 11th floor, was open before he lost control of Chloe and she fell onto a deck below, the family said.
But Royal Caribbean counters this claim in its motion, which includes a series of still images that the company said were taken from security video and which it says show that Anello knew the window was open before holding Chloe up to it.
One of the images shows Anello leaning out the window, the court filing says.
"When he arrives at the open window, and while Chloe is on the floor, Mr. Anello leans his upper-torso over the wooden railing and out of the window frame for approximately eight seconds," the cruise line's court motion says. "Because Mr. Anello had himself leaned out the window, he was well aware that the window is open."
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Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the Wiegand family, called the pictures "misleading" but declined to elaborate at this point.
Separate from the lawsuit by the family and the company's response, prosecutors in Puerto Rico have charged Anello with negligent homicide in his granddaughter's death. Anello was arrested in October and released on an $80,000 bond. He has insisted in media interviews that he is not guilty.
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Royal Caribbean in its court filing on Jan. 8 said that while the "death of Chloe Wiegand is a sad tragedy," the grandfather is entirely to blame.
"His actions, which no reasonable person could have foreseen, were reckless and irresponsible and the sole reason why Chloe is no longer with her parents," the court motion said.
Jose G. Perez-Ortiz, Anello’s lawyer in Puerto Rico, also could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.
Alan Wiegand is a police officer for the South Bend Police Department in Indiana.