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Harrowing surveillance video captures 1-year-old's fatal fall off cruise ship

November 22, 2019 - 10:19 am
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(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Harrowing surveillance video from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship captured the tragic final moments of a 1-year-old girl enjoying a vacation with her family before falling to her death.

Chloe Wiegand, an 18-month-old from Indiana, was traveling with her grandparents and parents on the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas at the time of the July incident.

While the ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Chloe was with her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, in the children's water park play area. Anello put her on a wood railing in front of a wall of glass windows, later saying he thought she'd bang on the glass -- but the window was open, according to Anello's family attorney, Michael Winkleman.

ABC News reviewed surveillance video of the incident, which was discovery evidence prosecutors shared with defense attorneys this week.

In the video, which did not include audio, Chloe, wearing a white hat, her swim suit and swim shoes, runs across the pool area with her grandfather a few feet behind.

They walk over to the wall of windows where Anello appears to look over the railing, through the open window. Anello picks Chloe up and stands her up on the railing, and they appear to lean over together looking out over the port.

Then he re-adjusts and sits Chloe on the railing, still facing the port. They lean over again and she disappears from the frame.

Moments later, Anello drops to the ground. Winkleman said Anello repeatedly screamed that he thought the window was closed.

"You're dealing with what happened in a split second, in a terrible set of circumstances, but you have a grandfather who 99.9% of his attention is on his grandchildren," Winkleman told ABC News on Thursday. "When I'm on a cruise ship and I'm in a kids play area and I see a wall of windows, I think it's reasonable for me to think that's a wall of windows and there's not going to be some hidden danger."

Other passengers then rush to the windows to see what happened. Some are seen walking away, clearly distraught.

Anello has been charged with negligent homicide in connection with Chloe's death, which Winkleman has called a "tragic accident."

"I think a lot of people don't understand the unique configuration of the ship because it has this window that sort of has this curvature with this railing that goes across it," Winkleman said. "So I think some people may be thought he was dangling her out the window, but I think it's very clear from the video that it's not the case."

"He thought this window was closed... this is a wall of windows with one random window that was open," said Winkleman. "The whole thing happens in less that thirty seconds. And the amount of time he has her on the railing is about five seconds. So all this happens like that."

Prosecutors say they have witnesses, both on and off the island, they plan to call to testify.

“We’re comfortable with the evidence that we have,” prosecutor Ivette Nieves told ABC News this week. “We have a solid case.”

Royal Caribbean's Director of Corporate Communications, Melissa Charbonneau, wrote in an email to ABC News on Thursday: "This was a tragic incident. Out of respect for the family's privacy during this very sad time, and because the government has chosen to charge Mr. Salvatore Anello with negligent homicide in a matter now before the courts, we have no further comment."

Anello appeared at a preliminary hearing in San Juan on Thursday, after which his attorney, Jose Ortiz, declined to comment. Anello is next due in court on Dec. 17 and has not entered a plea.

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