Attorneys representing the family of an Indiana toddler who fell to her death from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in July say their recent inspection of the scene proves the cruise line is lying to the court.
Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean filed a motion to dismiss the civil case holding them responsible, claiming that Chloe Wiegand’s death was solely caused by the “reckless and irresponsible” actions of her grandfather, Salvatore “Sam” Anello.
The cruise line maintains that Anello was aware that the window Chloe fell from was open. Royal Caribbean says surveillance video shows Anello leaning out of the open window for about eight seconds before he lifted his granddaughter.
The cruise line says Anello held the child out of the open window for 34 seconds before he lost his grip.
In their response to Royal Caribbean’s motion, the Wiegand family attorneys say a ship inspection they conducted on Jan. 10 “proved to be a game-changer, definitively revealing Royal Caribbean’s deception to this court within its motion to dismiss.”
“All in all, Royal Caribbean has filed with this court inaccurate and deceptive CCTV video and a demonstrably false narrative in order to further Royal Caribbean’s interests, rather than the truth; while at the same time defaming Mr. Anello and irresponsibly causing further irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs, a family in severe distress,” wrote Michael Winkleman, an attorney representing the Wiegand family in the civil case.
According to court documents, Winkleman and his team carried out a one-day inspection of the ship, Freedom of the Seas.
In the report, Winkleman says that his team found 13 cameras on the ship in the area of the incident, but Royal Caribbean only shared two angles, which the attorneys say show “deceptive angles of the incident.” The attorneys have since filed a motion to compel Royal Caribbean to produce all the footage from the other cameras in the area.
Using a man of Anello’s height and stature to conduct a reenactment, Winkleman’s team took measurements to see if the scenario could have played out the way Royal Caribbean claims.
Attorneys for the Wiegand family say it would have been physically impossible for Anello to lean his head out of the window, and then hold Chloe out of the window from his position.
“In order to even touch the subject window with the very top of his head, Plaintiffs’ counsel had to lift his feet at least seven inches off the ground,” Winkleman writes.
Winkleman’s filing says that during their inspection of the ship, it was determined that the inside edge of the handrail was 19 inches from the window opening.
“To have physically held Chloe out the window, Mr. Anello would have required much longer arms than he had,” Winkleman writes. “Chloe only fell when Mr. Anello tragically leaned her forward to bang on what he believed was a fixed glass panel – as they had done many times before at Chloe’s brother’s hockey games.”
Royal Caribbean has not responded to a request for comment from the IndyStar, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Winkleman let an IndyStar reporter and editor review Royal Caribbean surveillance footage that showed the toddler’s fall.
The video shows the toddler following her grandfather toward the big windows. Anello is seen leaning over an interior railing in front of the windows.
The video shows Anello lifting Chloe onto the railing. In an instant, she’s gone.
In a separate criminal case, prosecutors in Puerto Rico have charged Anello with negligent homicide in Chloe’s death. If convicted, the charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Anello “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor of the cruise ship,” the Puerto Rican Department of Justice said in an Oct. 28 news release.
IndyStar reporter Vic Ryckaert contributed to this story.
Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at 317-444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.
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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Royal Caribbean accused of lying about toddler’s fatal fall