THE family of a toddler who fell 150ft to her death from a cruise ship have said she plunged from an open window in a play area.
Early reports said eighteen-month-old Chloe Wiegand was dropped by her grandad, plummeting 11 floors into the concrete below while the vessel was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The little girl, from Indiana in the US, was said to have slipped from her grandfather Salvatore Anello’s arms on Sunday afternoon – with cops contemplating filing charges.
The family’s Miami-based attorney Michael Winkleman hit back at the accusations that Anello was acting irresponsibly, saying the story “is not as it had originally been portrayed in the media”.
He said in a statement reported by Sky News: “The grandfather didn’t drop the child, the child fell due to an open glass pane that should have been closed securely.
“Chloe wanted to bang on the glass like she always did at her older brother’s hockey games. Her grandfather thought there was glass just like everywhere else, but there was not, and she was gone in an instant.”
The Wiegand family recently released a picture of Chloe leaning on a see-through barrier at a hockey rink and have pinned blame for the tragedy on The Royal Caribbean cruise line.
Mr Winkleman said the grieving family wants to know why a window that “should have been closed securely” was open.
He added: “The family needs answers as to why there would be an open window in a wall full of fixed windows in a kids’ play area? Why would you have the danger without any warning, sign, or notice?
“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.
“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.”
He asked: “Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kid’s area?”
On Monday, Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman Jose Carmona said the family was gathered in or near a dining hall at the time of the incident, and that the grandfather had sat Chloe on the edge of a window.
He said it remained unclear whether the window was already open or if someone opened it.
If negligence charges are filed they will carry a maximum of three years behind bars.
Police sources have said the footage on the security cameras aboard the ship will be decisive in their investigation, El Vocero reported.
One officer said he couldn’t rule out police filing murder charges.
Local police have declined to comment on the grandfather’s account of events, but said the family will remain in the country until their investigation is complete.
CRIES OF AGONY
Mr Anello and several other family members were so hysterical after the child’s tragic death plunge that they had to be sedated by medics, according to El Vocero.
Witnesses told how they heard the family, from Indiana, US, wailing in agony after Chloe fell to her death.
One passenger told Telemundo PR: “We heard the screams of the families because we were close.
“A cry of pain of that nature does not compare with any other cry.”
It is still not clear whether Mr Anello or anyone else will be prosecuted over Chloe’s death, with cops quizzing witnesses and reviewing CCTV before deciding whether to file charges.
Henry Escalera Rivera, Commissioner of the Police Bureau, told Prima Hora: “This is a process that is under investigation.
“We must wait to interview relatives and evaluate other evidence to determine if the filing of charges is appropriate.”
Devastated mum Kimberley Schultz Wiegand posted pictures of herself with her little girl on Facebook in the wake of the tragedy.
Friends and family paid tribute, leaving comments like: “Sweet angel. Praying for you and your family Kim.”
Another wrote: “You are loved. Praying for you and your family. I’m so sorry.”
Most read in news
HAIL ON EARTH
6 tourists killed including boy, 2, and '100 injured' as storms hit Greece
navy gulf clash
Royal Navy frigate trains guns on Iranian boats trying to storm Brit tanker
DRINK IT UP
£800k four-bed home looks like normal terrace… but hides incredible secret
M25 closed for EIGHT HOURS as pile-up leaves 26-mile queues
Shocking moment teens slash each other with knives in terrifying street clash
Mum stunned as cops called over her kids playing 'naked' in paddling pool
A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told Sun Online: “We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family.
“We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need.
“Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident.”
Police at the scene of the tragedy[/caption]
The Freedom of the Seas ship was docked in Puerto Rico at the time[/caption]
Police have been interviewing passengers who witnessed the horror[/caption]
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 782 4368 . You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.