The Indiana grandfather who was holding his toddler grandchild when she accidentally fell over the side of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico Sunday could potentially face charges, officials said.
Authorities said Salvatore Anello, an IT worker from South Bend, was holding the girl, identified as Chloe Wiegand, up to a window when she accidentally slipped out of his arms. The child plunged 150 feet from the Royal Caribbean ship Freedom of the Seas to the dock below.
"Sadly, she died on impact," a local Port Authority spokesperson told CNN.
Witnesses said the mother's anguished cry did “not compare to any other scream.”
Puerto Rican officials said Monday that they are still investigating whether to charge Anello with negligence in the case.
But the family doesn't blame Anello. Their lawyer, Michael Winkleman, told NBC News the family was in a play area on the ship circled by clear glass panels when the accident happened. Winkleman said Anello lifted Chloe up to a railing he thought was behind glass but turned out to be open to the air.
"Essentially her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where he thinks that there is glass there because it's clear, but it turns out there was no glass there," Winkleman said. "She goes to bang on the glass ... and the next thing you know, she's gone."
The family doesn't understand why there was an open window along the wall of glass panels, Winkleman added.
"Why in the world would you leave a window open in an entire glass wall full of windows in a kids' area?" he asked.
People who know Anello back home say he's "beloved."
Mike Hamann, who works with Anello, called him a "wonderful employee."
“He is beloved by all. We are crushed by this tragedy, and we all are mourning for him and his family," Hamann told WSBT.
The girl is the daughter of Indiana police officer Alan Wiegand and his wife, Kimberly.
“The South Bend Police Department offers its sincerest condolences to officer Alan Wiegand and his family during this difficult time following the tragic loss of their child while in Puerto Rico. The department asks the community to pray for the entire Wiegand family as they grieve,” the police department said in a statement.
Police Sgt. Nelson Sotelo told The Associated Press that the family is "in shock" and will stay in Puerto Rico for the duration of the investigation.
Owen Torres, corporate communications manager for Royal Caribbean, told CBS News that the cruise operator was "deeply saddened by [the] tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family."
Torres added that the company had made its "Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need.”