Parents of cruise ship death toddler beg for case against granddad to be dropped

The distraught parents of a toddler who died being dropped from an open cruise ship window have begged authorities to end the case against her granddad.

Salvatore 'Sam' Anello is accused of dropping granddaughter Chloe Wiegand 150ft to her death from the window of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last July.

Her parents have fiercely defended the elderly man, pleading with Puerto Rican prosecutors to stop the criminal proceedings against him.

Alan and Kimberly Wiegand have claimed they have evidence it was 'physically impossible' for him to have dangled their 18-month-old girl overboard from the eleventh deck of the cruise ship.

Their legal team created a harrowing onboard reconstruction of the little girl's tragic death plunge using a lifesize doll, as they blame the cruise ship operator for her fall.

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The couple told the Daily Mail they never wanted charges filed against Mr Anello and are desperate to stop the case that could see him face a jail term.

The couple say they ordered their own private investigation into the incident aboard the Freedom of Seas, with their legal team undertaking an unsupervised inspection aboard the vessel when it docked in Barbados earlier this month.

They have called for authorities to abandon the negligent homicide charge against the granddad, who is colour blind.

The family had been on what should have been a dream seven-night cruise aboard the luxury liner through the Caribbean, with stops including St Lucia and Barbados, when the tragedy took place.

In an emotional statement provided to the newspaper, the pair said: "We respectfully ask the Puerto Rican prosecutors to take a hard look at the new evidence that has come to light,'

"It shows what we have known all along, that Sam thought it was a wall of glass.

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"We have never wanted charges filed against Sam because we know with all of our hearts that he would never put Chloe in harm's way.

"We will stand with Sam as long as it takes – but we cannot grieve as a family until the criminal charges are dropped."

The couple have filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean accusing the cruise line of negligence.

Their lawsuit accuses the cruise giant of creating a 'false narrative' due to providing only two footage showing two angles of the incident.

They also allege that Royal Caribbean's claim Mr Anello poked his head out the window was 'physically impossible,' claiming their private investigation had found he would have had to have been seven inches off the ground to do so.

They also suggest he would need to have extraordinarily long arms to dangle the toddler over the edge of the ship.

Lawyers representing Mr Anello, an IT worker from Indiana, is reportedly expected to call witnesses including a medical expert and a specialist in recreating accident scenes, in the ongoing court case.

He faces up to three years in jail if he is convicted of a misdemeanour charge.

Mr Anello insists he is not criminally responsible for his granddaughter's death.

He has claimed he had lifted the toddler up to bang on the glass as she liked doing at her brother's ice hockey games, and had no idea the glass was missing.

Chloe's parents have accepted his claim that his colour blindness made it difficult for him to see that the tinted, waist-height windows on the Freedom of the Seas' eleventh deck was not there.

They instead blame Royal Caribbean for allegedly breaching safety law by not including warning signs that the panels could be slid open.

The Mail has also reported a statement provided by a an onboard doctor who found Chloe's body and witnessed the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

Dr Marcel Alexander Armand Van Drunick is said to have given a statement to police, telling how he heard screams from the upper deck and saw the girl lying lifeless on the pier beneath.

He spoke to the granddad within minutes of the tragedy, describing him as inconsolable.

He claims a sobbing Mr Anello told him: "I thought the window was closed."

Royal Caribbean's court filings insist Mr Anello did know the window was open, and had put his granddaughter in danger.

The cruise operator told the Mail: "The death of Chloe Wiegand is undeniably a heartbreaking tragedy that has prompted a criminal prosecution of Chloe's step-grandfather and a civil lawsuit brought by the Wiegand family attorneys"

"Our position in the matter is outlined in our Motion to Dismiss, which we were legally mandated to do in response to the civil complaint.

"The motion was filed in Federal Court in South Florida and is available to the public."

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