UPDATE: After the publication of this article, Michael Winkleman, the attorney representing Chloe Wiegand’s family, who have stood by her grandfather, released a statement, which is printed at the bottom of this story.
Facing a lawsuit from the family of a toddler girl who fell to her death out of a cruise ship window last July, Royal Caribbean moved to dismiss the case, saying in court documents that blame for the tragedy lies with the child’s grandfather.
Eighteen-month-old Chloe Wiegand fell more than 10 stories from a window in a children’s play area on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, who was holding her up on a railing adjacent to the large open window before she fell, has since been charged with negligent homicide in Puerto Rico, where the tragedy took place.
Anello has contended he thought the window was closed, and Chloe’s parents have said they don’t blame him. Prosecutors allege Anello “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor,” according to a statement from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice obtained by PEOPLE.
In December, the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Royal Caribbean. The family’s attorney, Michael Winkleman, previously told PEOPLE, “The windows were not compliant with window-fall prevention codes, designed to prevent children from falling out of windows.”
Winkleman has said Anello put Chloe up on a wood railing beside what he thought was a wall of closed windows, unaware that a sliding window was open. Winkleman said Chloe liked to bang on glass panels at her older brother’s hockey games, and when she went to bang on what appeared to be closed windows, she fell.
In a motion to dismiss the suit filed Jan. 8 and obtained by PEOPLE, Royal Caribbean, citing a closed-circuit video taken of the accident, claimed Anello knew the window was open.
“Because Mr. Anello had himself leaned out the window, he was well aware that the window was open,” the motion said. “In addition, the windows in question consist of greenish-tinted glass making it open and obvious where a window is open versus closed.”
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“There was no ‘hidden danger’ — Mr. Anello knew the window was open,” the motion added.
Winkleman has previously claimed the opposite: that the video exonerates Anello because it shows he believed the window was closed.
According to Winkleman, all windows comprising the wall were closed except for the one in question.
Winkleman also said there was a significant enough distance between the railing and the window so that Anello, who is seen leaning over the railing in the video before Chloe fell, wouldn’t necessarily have known it was open.
The video “is consistent with [Anello’s] version of events since day one,” Winkleman said.
In a November interview with CBS This Morning, Anello described his emotions after Chloe’s fall.
“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,” he said. “And I was like ‘Oh my God.’ And I think for a while I was in shock and I was just standing there.”
“And then I just remember screaming that I thought there was glass. I thought there was glass. I still say it to myself, it’s just, I kind of relive it all the time and I just thought there was glass there. I don’t know what else to tell you,” he said.
“He was extremely hysterical. The thing that he has repeatedly told us is, ‘I believed that there was glass,’” Kimberly said. “He will cry over and over and over. At no point ever — ever — has [he] ever put our kids in danger.”
In December, Anello’s defense attorney Jose Perez told CBS his client was offered a plea deal but didn’t accept it because he wants to clear his name.
“It’s firm that he is innocent and he does not want to plea,” Perez said, though he added that Anello was considering the deal.
In a statement to PEOPLE issued after the original publication of this article, Winkleman said:
“The Wiegands are in the process of responding to Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss. In short, Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss is baseless and deceptive. It is clear that Royal Caribbean’s tactic is to blame Chloe’s grandfather rather than to accept that Royal Caribbean did not implement industry standards for toddler safety aboard its ships which ultimately led to Chloe’s tragic death. Royal Caribbean has premised its defense in this case and its blame on Chloe’s grandfather by supplying two deceptive views from its CCTV cameras to the court and the Puerto Rico authorities. However, the Plaintiffs were first permitted a vessel inspection of the scene of the incident on January 10 – less than a week after Royal Caribbean first informed the Wiegands that they are making modifications to the ship that will destroy the subject area where the incident occurred. That inspection has revealed that Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss neglects to tell the Court and, presumably, the authorities that there were no less than THIRTEEN CCTV video cameras in the area of the incident. The Wiegands will ask the Court to compel Royal Caribbean to produce all the video from those nearby cameras.
Further, the Wiegands’ response to Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss will definitively show what the Wiegands have said since day one: that Chloe’s grandfather never knew there was an open window and never knowingly put Chloe in harm’s way. Had Royal Caribbean simply abided by industry standards for window safety, designed to protect toddlers, this tragedy would not have occurred.”