The grandfather who allegedly dropped his young granddaughter from the 11th floor of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico has spoken out about the tragedy after appearing in court.
Salvatore “Sam” Anello was on-board the cruise ship holding 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand when she fell through what his family called a hole among a “wall of windows” and onto the dock below.
It’s alleged Mr Anello held Chloe up to what he thought was a closed window to allow her to bang on the glass, a game she loved to play at home.
However, the pane of glass was an open window and she fell straight through.
Last month, a judge ordered the arrest of Mr Anello, who was charged with negligent homicide, and on Wednesday the grieving grandfather appeared in court for proceedings that lasted about 10 minutes.
Speaking to NBC following the short court appearance, Mr Anello said nothing “worse” could happen to him.
“They can’t do anything worse to me than has already happened,” Mr Anello said.
During his appearance, prosecutors told the court they had witnesses from both on and off the island that they would call to testify, and they were expecting to present new evidence.
According to PEOPLE, the prosecutors allege Mr Anello “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor”, a statement from the Puerto Rican Department of Justice read.
Lawyer Michael Winkleman, who is representing the Wiegand family in a planned lawsuit against Royal Caribbean but not Mr Anello individually, told news.com.au that another pre-trial hearing would be scheduled for December, and at that time a trial would likely be set for sometime in January.
“They feel devastated and distraught. They stand 100 per cent behind (Mr Anello) and his version of events that he thought this was a wall of windows,” Mr Winkleman said earlier this year.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, prosecutor Laura Hernandez said she was confident in her case and would not have pursued the charge if it was not supported by evidence.
Ms Hernandez denied Royal Caribbean had any influence in the decision to bring the charge.
Mr Anello’s defence lawyer, Jose Ortiz, declined to make a statement.
Mr Winkleman said Chloe’s family were shocked Puerto Rican prosecutors were holding Mr Anello responsible.
“The family’s really not doing well. I think they’re really devastated by the fact that these charges have been filed and that this case continues to go forward,” he told CBS.
“They’re shocked because they think it’s groundless. … They certainly didn’t want charges to be filed.”
Mr Winkleman said the decision to press charges was simply “salt in open wounds”.
At the time of the horror incident in July, Mr Anello blamed Royal Caribbean for failing to close the window inside the child’s play area.
Chloe’s mother, Kimberley Wiegand, was on-board the cruise ship with all three of their children and both sets of grandparents, including Kimberley’s father, Mr Anello.
In the moments following the tragedy, witnesses heard a “cry of pain” and wails of agony from Mr Anello and several other family members on-board the ship.
Following the tragedy, questions around whether Mr Anello’s negligence led to Chloe’s death were quickly defused by the family, who appeared on the US version of Today in the weeks following the tragedy.
Mrs Wiegand and her police officer husband Alan spoke of their grief and horror during what was supposed to be the family holiday of a lifetime.
“I didn’t know that she went out a window,” she said through tears during the interview.
“I just saw Sam standing next to the wall of windows just screaming and banging on it. There was somebody from Royal Caribbean, they kept trying to stop me. I just kept saying take me to my baby, where is my baby? I didn’t even notice the window,” she said.
“I looked over it and it wasn’t water down there, it was concrete. Honestly, to lose our baby this way is just unfathomable.”