Harrowing crime scene photos taken moments after Indiana toddler Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from the 11th deck of a cruise ship can be revealed for the first time tonight as part of a bombshell negligence lawsuit that could net her parents tens of millions.
The images obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com include a picture of the exact window angelic Chloe tumbled through before plunging 150ft on to a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Taken by a criminal investigator peering over the side of the luxury vessel, it shows the spot where Chloe is presumed to have landed and soon after been pronounced dead, covered with a blue police tent.
Harrowing crime scene photos taken moments after Indiana toddler Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from the 11th deck of a cruise ship can be revealed for the first time. A photograph depicting the distance between the window the toddler fell through and the railing
The images obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com include a picture of the exact window angelic Chloe tumbled through before plunging 150ft on to a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The wall of glass featured three rows of glass, floor to ceiling, with a wooden rail between the middle and bottom rows. Here it is closed off with police tape
Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello was holding his granddaughter Chloe Weigand on July 20, when he dropped her through an open window on the 11th deck of a cruise ship(pictured)
The photo is included in a negligence suit due to be filed Wednesday, accusing Royal Caribbean of breaching industry safety standards by having large glass windows on their ships that could be slid wide open by passengers without warning.
Chloe’s granddad Salvatore Anello has been charged with criminal neglect by Puerto Rican authorities for allegedly dropping her through one such window on The Freedom of the Seas on July 7.
But her parents Alan and Kimberly Wiegand have been steadfast in their support for the maternal grandfather, however, instead blaming Royal Caribbean for failing to install the safety devices or warning signs seen on similar ships.
If their suit succeeds the grieving couple from South Bend, Indiana could claim ‘unlimited’ damages for pain and mental suffering because Chloe died on American territory rather than while the boat was at sea.
Chloe’s granddad Salvatore Anello has been charged with criminal neglect by Puerto Rican authorities for allegedly dropping her through one such window on The Freedom of the Seas on July 7. Pictured above holding Chloe
Anello is accused of lifting Chloe, 18 months, towards an open window before she tumbled 150ft to her death on to a concrete dock on July 7. She died on impact
Damages awarded under unlawful death laws are typically far higher than those under the Death On The High Seas Act, which covers only smaller items such as funeral expenses, the family’s attorney Michael Winkleman, explained.
He refused to be drawn on a specific figure telling DailyMail.com: ‘One of the hardest things in my job is to put a figure on grief. And how can you possibly do that in the death of a child.
‘Four simple words – caution these windows open – and we wouldn’t be talking about his. A sticker, a decal with the Royal Caribbean logo, anything, and Chloe is still with us.’
The Wiegand’s suit, due to be filed in Miami, Florida, where Royal Caribbean is based, states that Anello was alone with Chloe and ‘closely supervising her’ at an area known as the H2O Zone.
It states that Chloe and her grandfather walked towards the ‘wall of glass’ that surrounds the ship’s 11th deck unaware that the center section comprises panes that can be slid open by ‘anyone’.
The filing says Anello lifted Chloe up so she could bang on the glass as she loved to do at her older brother’s ice hockey games, unaware they were leaning towards thin air.
The lawsuit states: ‘Unknown to Mr. Anello at that time, this was not, in fact, a wall of fixed glass. Instead, some of the glass panes in the middle row had the ability to be (and remain) slid opened by anyone, including other passengers’
The walkways aboard the ship had the floor to ceiling glass panels
Pictured: A railing against an open window on a Royal Caribbean ship, which Anello’s lawyers say is nearly identical to the one Chloe fell through
Forensic experts studied the boat’s windows, furniture and layout in the wake of the accident for clues as to how the child could have gone overboard
She slipped from his grasp and tumbled to her death through the only open pane ‘among dozens,’ it alleges.
The suit contends there was not a single warning sign, decal or safety notice to alert parents to the ‘hidden dangers’ that it argues are required by industry standards.
One of the images depicts the wooden handrail, 18 inches in front of the ship’s bank of window, which Anello sat Chloe on in the seconds before she fell.
Far from making things safer, the filing says this created a gap between Anello and the window and made it harder for the devastated grandparent – who is color blind – to distinguish between glass and a missing pane.
Similar cruise ships including newer boats owned by Royal Caribbean employ devices such as window screens or guards that are not present on the 2004-built Freedom of the Seas, the filing further alleges.
In parallel criminal proceedings in San Juan, Anello of Valparaiso, Indiana faces up to three years in prison if he’s found guilty of causing Chloe’s death. ‘All I know is I was trying to reach the glass and I know that we leaned over to try to have her reach the glass, at that point she slipped,’ Anello told CBS last month.
‘Chloe being gone is the worst thing ever so I’m like, whatever, you know. There’s nothing worse that they could do to me than what’s already happened.’ Puerto Rican authorities say they plan to use a handful of eyewitnesses as well as on-board CCTV footage of Chloe going overboard to prove Anello’s guilt when the case goes to trial.
But attorneys for Anello say the exact same footage – taken from two separate angles overlooking the pool area – exonerates the grieving granddad and proves it was simply a tragic accident.
DailyMail.com was among a small number of media outlets permitted to view the footage which shows Anello lifting Chloe up to give her a better view before placing her on a metal railing.
Earlier that day, Anello had come up to the H2O Zone on Deck 11 to supervise Chloe, his 18-month-old granddaughter (pictured)
Defendant’s newer vessels do comply with the foregoing industry standards by having glass panes that do not open in the same or similar water park area for children. For instance the glass panes near the water park aboard the Anthem of the Seas (pictured) do not open at all
The glass panes on the pool deck aboard the Carnival Breeze also do not open
The glass panes on the pool deck aboard NCL’s vessels do not open at all either, and they do not contain openings of more than four inches, as depicted on the Norwegian Epic
As the pair lean forward she vanishes overboard. Anello looks down towards the dock below slumping to his knees in shock. The IT worker was allowed to fly back to the US but returned to San Juan after a judge issued an arrest warrant stating there was probable cause to charge him with negligent homicide.
Winkleman, a leading US-based maritime lawyer representing the family in civil proceedings, accused Puerto Rican prosecutors of ‘pouring salt on the family’s open wounds’ by bringing a misdemeanor charge.
‘Had the cruise line simply followed proper safety guidelines for windows, this accident likely would never have happened,’ he said.
Chloe and her granddad had been about to embark on a seven-night Caribbean cruise with her parents, older brother, fraternal grandparents and Anello’s wife Patricia.
Chloe’s parents Alan and Kimberly Weigand have been steadfast in their support for the maternal grandfather, instead blaming and threatening to sue Royal Caribbean for ‘inexplicably’ leaving a window open in a family play area. They are new suing the cruise company for negligence
Salvatore Anello Grandfather of little girl killed on Cruise ship pictured in court in San Juan Superior Court last month
‘I remember trying to find her on the floor and then I saw her fall, I saw her fall, I saw her fall and I was just in disbelief,’ the Indiana grandfather said, choking on tears, in his CBS interview. Anello pictured above holding baby Chloe
The fun-packed family vacation was supposed take in the sights of San Juan, St Maarten, St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados. ‘When they told me Chloe had died, I didn’t know she went out a window,’ Kimberly, 36, said in an interview with Today.
‘I just saw Sam standing next to the wall of windows, screaming and banging on it and there was like somebody trying to stop me. I just kept saying, “Take me to my baby. Where is my baby?” ‘I didn’t know she had gone out the window. Then I looked over, and it wasn’t water beneath, it was concrete. To lose our baby this way is just unfathomable.
‘I never want another mother to have to experience what I had to, to see what I had to see or scream or how I had to scream.’
In interviews after Chloe’s death, her shattered parents spoke of their determination to force Royal Caribbean to change its windows and improve safety, ensuring the tragedy would never be repeated.
Royal Caribbean has described Chloe’s death as a ‘tragic incident’, refusing to comment further and referring inquiries to Puerto Rican authorities.