1-Year-Old Dies Falling from 11th Floor Cruise Ship Window After Grandpa 'Loses His Grip'

epphotography/Twenty20

Cruise ship sailing blue sea
epphotography/Twenty20

If you're not sitting down right now, you might want to before reading the details of this story, because they will most likely haunt you. A family from Granger, Indiana, was reportedly enjoying a fun-filled getaway to Puerto Rico when tragedy struck this past weekend. Just as their cruise ship was docking in San Juan, their 1-1/2-year-old daughter fell from an open window and plummeted to her death below. The accident wasn't the result of a curious toddler who escaped her parents' view. Instead, sadly, the little girl seems to have slipped from her grandfather's grip in full view of her anguished mother.

  • The incident happened on Sunday, while the family was aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Freedom of the Seas, which leaves from Florida.

    The grandfather, who has been identified as Salvatore Anello, was holding the little girl out an open window on the 11th floor of the ship, according to the Associated Press. Some witnesses say he appeared to be playing a game with the toddler as the boat was docking. 

    But what happened next shocked everyone -- including Anello.

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  • In a mere matter of seconds, the grandfather says he lost his grip, and the toddler girl plunged 150 feet to the concrete below.

    The girl is said to have taken a hard landing, and she was rushed to the nearest hospital as soon as medics arrived but could not be saved. The toddler died from her injuries shortly afterward, leaving her already anguished family heartbroken by the news.

  • According to eyewitnesses, the mother's screams of horror could be heard by passengers near and far.

    "[We heard] the screams of the families because we were close," one witness told Telemundo PR. "Because of the mother's cry, because there I looked because they were screams ... imagine. That tonality, a scream of pain of that nature. It does not compare to any other scream."

  • The captain of the ship personally gave his condolences to the family and delayed the ship's departure, though it is not known for how long.

    The toddler had been traveling with her parents, two siblings, and both her maternal and paternal grandparents at the time of the incident. Her father has since been identified as Alan Weigand, an officer with the South Bend Police Department.

    Understandably, all of the family members are said to be beside themselves with grief.

    "It has not been possible to interview the family," said Department of Public Security official Elmer Román, according to the Daily Mail. In the meantime, they've been provided with both medical and spiritual support, he said.

    The South Bend Police Department also issued a public statement following the news, offering 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 and to respect their privacy."

  • Although accidents of this kind are rare on cruise ships, they do happen.

    In 2017, 8-year-old Zion Smith fell to her death from a Carnival cruise ship. The young girl, who was traveling with her family from the Bahamas to Miami, was reportedly on a fifth-floor balcony, standing on her "tippy toes," when she fell over the railing as passengers on the ship were attempting to disembark.

    And in 2018, a 52-year-old woman was found dead after falling off a deck on a Royal Princess cruise ship and into a life boat below. (In that case, investigators quickly pointed to homicide, rather than an accident, because the woman was seen struggling with a man moments before her fall.)

  • For now, charges haven't been filed against the grandfather or any other family members, but the homicide unit is investigating.

    The New York Post reports that witnesses are still being interviewed and police are seeking out additional security footage to review that could be helpful. 

    Puerto Rico Secretary for Public Affairs Anthony Maceira said the department was responding to the incident "with the seriousness and sensitivity it requires," according to NBC News

    "We pray God fills with strength this family who is living today a real tragedy," Maceira later wrote on Twitter, according to the news program.