The grandfather of an 18-month-old girl who fell to her death from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship window this summer has been charged with negligent homicide.
On July 7, Chloe Wiegand and her family, who are from Indiana, were on a vacation aboard the Freedom of the Seas cruise liner when it was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The girl plunged through a large, open window and onto the concrete dock below while she was spending time with her grandfather, Salvatore "Sam" Anello.
Puerto Rican authorities told BuzzFeed News at the time it was possible members of her family could be implicated in her death, which became a massive national news story. Witnesses and family members gave varying accounts about what happened that Sunday when the toddler suddenly fell 11 stories onto the dock below, dying on impact.
On Monday, San Juan Investigations Chamber Judge Jimmy Sepúlveda determined that Anello was responsible for Chloe's death and charged the grandfather with negligent homicide, setting his bail at $80,000.
In his testimony, the 50-year-old told officials that Chloe had asked him to pick her up, and he then put her on the rail by the window, expecting the glass to support her.
Chloe's family had blamed Royal Caribbean for leaving a large window open in the children's area of the ship, creating a dangerous environment that enabled the girl to fall out.
This is not “like the Michael Jackson story, where he was dangling the child out the window,” Michael Winkleman, the family's attorney, said during a news conference in July, explaining that Anello had placed Chloe on the railing because she loved to bang on the glass during her brother's hockey games in Indiana.
"He thinks that there is glass there because it's clear, but it turns out there was no glass there," he said at the time. "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."
In a statement Monday, Winkleman said the criminal charges "are pouring salt on the open wounds of this grieving family."
"Clearly, this was a tragic accident and the family’s singular goal remains for something like this to never happen again," he said. "Had the cruise lines simply followed proper safety guidelines for windows, this accident likely would never have happened."
He added that the family intends to file a lawsuit against the cruise line.
In a statement, Royal Caribbean said that "this was a tragic incident and out of respect for the family's privacy," referred BuzzFeed News to authorities "further comment."
Anello, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on Nov. 20.