Police investigating death of Indiana tot haven’t ruled out murder
EXCLUSIVE: ‘It could be a murder.’ Police investigating death of Indiana toddler who fell 150ft from cruise ship after grandfather propped her up against open glass window say they haven’t ruled out any possibilities while tot’s family blame the liner
- Police investigating the death of Chloe Wiegand, 18-months, who died after falling from a cruise ship in Puerto Rico, say they have not ruled out murder yet
- Chief cop Sgt Jose D. Sanchez told DailyMail.com that it was premature to declare the incident an accident
- He said: ‘There are various possibilities. It could be a homicide. It could be a murder. It could be an accident’
- Sgt Sanchez said possible charges could include murder, homicide – killing without intent – or neglect, and it could also be the case that no charges are filed
- Chloe is thought to have slipped from her grandfather Salvatore Anello’s hands before falling through a window of a Royal Caribbean ship on Sunday
- The family said he had propped Chloe up against what he thought was a closed glass window, but when she leaned forward, she fell straight through
- Now, they are blaming Royal Caribbean and say it was negligent by not making clear there was no glass in the window
The chief cop whose officers are investigating the shocking death of an Indiana toddler who fell 150ft from a cruise ship has told DailyMail.com he has not ruled out murder.
Tragic Chloe Wiegand is thought to have slipped out of her grandfather’s hands before plunging through an open window and over the side of a Royal Caribbean vessel as it prepared to depart Puerto Rico on Sunday.
But Sgt Jose D. Sanchez, acting head of the San Juan Police Department’s Homicide Division, told DailyMail.com that it was premature to declare the incident an accident.
‘There are various possibilities. It could be a homicide. It could be a murder. It could be an accident,’ he said during an exclusive interview on Monday evening at police headquarters.
‘We are currently in the very early stages of the investigation. We haven’t ruled out any possibility.
‘We are doing a professional, thorough investigation into the events to explain the death of this little girl. As police officers our duty lies with the victim.’
Meanwhile the Wiegand family are blaming Chloe’s death on the liner, saying she died by falling through a window which had been left open in the kids’ play area.
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Police investigating the death of Chloe Wiegand (pictured), 18-months, who died after falling 150ft from a cruise ship in Puerto Rico say they have not ruled out murder yet
Tragic Chloe Wiegand is thought to have slipped out of her grandfather Salvatore Anello’s hands before plunging through an open window and over the side of a Royal Caribbean vessel as it prepared to depart Puerto Rico on Sunday
The window on the far left is the one Chloe fell through on Sunday while being held against the railing by her grandfather. The others appear to have handles which allow them to be slid open This photograph was taken by Chloe’s father after the accident
The window is shown in an exterior image taken after the accident. The family says her grandfather simply did not realize it was open when he propped her up
Sgt Sanchez said possible charges could include murder, homicide – killing without intent – or neglect. It could also be the case that no charges are filed, he said, refusing to preempt the outcome of his inquiry.
Sgt Sanchez told DailyMail.com his officers had spoken to multiple witnesses but were yet to obtain a first-hand account of how Chloe fell.
He revealed that so far, none of the family members have given an interview to investigators – but the top cop cautioned: ‘You have to understand this was a traumatic scene.
‘As of now though we have not been able to interview them. It’s understandable that they would be afflicted by the death of a family member. It should be happy time but it’s a tragedy.’
This was the scene on the 11th deck after the accident on Sunday afternoon. It was taped off for police to investigate
Anello said he took his granddaughter over to the windows because she loved banging on the glass at her brother’s ice hockey games in Indiana. He thought she would like to bang on the cruise ship windows too but ‘before he knew it, she was gone’
Chloe, who was 18 months old, let out a ‘blood curdling’ scream as she fell, according to witnesses. Her distraught grandfather, right with her, had to be sedated afterwards because he was so upset
Sgt Sanchez said there had been no arrests and the family was free to leave Puerto Rico at any time. ‘All the family members are of interest, but not one particular person,’ he added.
‘We are still gathering formation, interviewing witnesses and analyzing all the evidence,’ Sgt Sanchez said. ‘We haven’t ruled out any possibilities.’
On Tuesday, a lawyer hired by the family revealed that Anello had put Chloe up on a wooden railing to let her bang on the glass, as she loved to do at her older brothers’ ice hockey games in Indiana, not realizing that the window was in fact open.
When she leaned forward to pound her hands on it, she went straight through the open space and plummeted to the ground below, letting out a ‘blood curdling’ scream as she fell, according to witnesses.
Sgt Jose D. Sanchez (pictured) told DailyMail.com that it was premature to declare the incident an accident. He said possible charges could include murder, homicide or neglect. It could also be the case that no charges are filed, he said, refusing to preempt the outcome of his inquiry
Meanwhile the Wiegand family are blaming Chloe’s death on the liner. A lawyer hired by the family revealed that Anello had put Chloe up on a wooden railing to let her bang on the glass, as she loved to do at her older brothers’ ice hockey games in Indiana, not realizing that the window was in fact open
The lawyer said that Anello simply did not see that the window was open when he propped Chloe up against it but he ‘absolutely had not’ been drinking.
‘We’ve all had that experience where someone walks into a glass door thinking it’s not there. This is the inverse of that,’ Michael Winkleman, the family’s lawyer, said on Tuesday.
He said the windows should not have been able to open at all given that they are in a children’s area and on the 11th floor of the ship.
Describing what happened at a press conference in Miami, he said: ‘The grandfather is with Chloe, they’re playing and there’s this wall of all windows, it’s all glass windows.
Chloe, who was 18 months old, let out a ‘blood curdling’ scream as she fell, according to witnesses
‘Chloe used to love to bang on the glass at her brother’s ice hockey games, so her grandfather takes her over to the windows, he thinks it’s all glass.
‘There’s a wood railing along there, he puts her on that thinking she’s going to bang on the glass and it’s going to be great, and the next thing he knows, she’s gone,’ he said.
He did not say why Anello thought it was open but said: ‘He literally thought it was all glass. Clearly, he was wrong.’
Asked if the grandfather had been drinking, he added: ‘There was absolutely no alcohol involved, Sam is not a drinker.’
Winkleman called it a ‘preventable tragedy’ and said the window should never have been open so high up.
‘What was preventable here was really, why would you ever put windows that passengers could open.
‘It was reasonable for him to think this was all glass.
‘From his perspective it was all glass,’ he added.
A spokesman for the law firm has since told DailyMail.com that while there was a glass pane there, it had been left open.
The family is looking into holding the cruise ship company accountable.
‘Why would you have that kind of danger without any sign without any warning without any notice?’ Winkleman added.
‘I do think there is going to be blame and significant blame on the cruise line.
‘I will do everything I can to hold them accountable for what appears to me to be negligence,’ he added.
Local officials told El Vocero, a Puerto Rican newspaper, that Anello and Chloe’s parents had to be sedated afterwards because they were so distraught.
According to Winkleman, after the accident he kept muttering: ‘I thought it was like she was at a hockey game.’
The lawyer said the family, who are still in Puerto Rico, want to ‘shine a light’ on the kind of child Chloe was.
‘She was such a happy and loving child,’ he said.
In a statement, Royal Caribbean said on Monday that it was ‘deeply saddened’ by the accident.
‘We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need.
‘Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident,’ it said.
It has not responded to the lawyer’s allegations of negligence.
Winkleman said one of his associates was in contact with the company.
Local officials told El Vocero , a Puerto Rican newspaper, that Anello and Chloe’s parents had to be sedated afterwards because they were so distraught. According to Winkleman, after the accident he kept muttering: ‘I thought it was like she was at a hockey game’
Freedom of the Seas cruise ship started its journey at San Juan in Puerto Rico
He wants it to release surveillance footage of the incident to the family.
Chloe was with her parents, older brother and grandparents on the week-long Caribbean cruise.
Her father is a cop from South Bend, Indiana. It was their first night on the ship.
The family went to speak to prosecutors on Monday in Puerto Rico and are now eager to get home, the lawyer added.
‘They want to get home as quickly as possible. Chloe’s body was going to be released today, they were working with authorities. They want to leave immediately.’
He added that Royal Caribbean was ‘helping’ the family with hotels and flights until they can return home.
Prosecutors have also asked for security footage from the ship and are speaking to witnesses.
They said on Monday that Anello had been playing a ‘game’ with his granddaughter when she slipped out of his arms.
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