Doctor Reveals Horrifying Moment He Got to Toddler's Body After She Fell from Cruise Ship Window

Chloe Wiegand
Today/YouTube

As the negligent homicide trial for Salvatore "Sam" Anello inches closer, new details are continuing to emerge about what happened on that fateful day in July, when 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand fell 150 feet to her death off the 11th deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise liner. One of the voices to emerge in the last week belongs to Dr. Marcel Alexander Armand Van Drunick, the cruise ship doctor who rushed to the toddler's aid as her broken body lay on the concrete platform beside the ship. Sadly, by the time he reached her, he could immediately tell she was gone.

  • According to the Daily Mail, the doctor was radioed at 4:04 p.m. July 7 and informed of an "accident on the gangway."

    The 57-year-old doctor immediately sprinted down to the pier, where the Freedom of the Seas ship had just docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and saw the toddler.

    "About halfway down the pier we saw the body of a baby lying on the pier," Van Drunick told investigators, an exclusive report by the Daily Mail noted. "It was a female, 18-month baby lying face down with multiple traumatic injuries. There was no life.

    "Her one pink shoe and the white hat was lying on the pier not far from the deceased," he continued. "I immediately shouted for a sheet to cover the body."

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  • Just moments earlier, Chloe had been enjoying a fun-filled day with her family in a children's play area of the ship.

    Kimberly and Alan Wiegand had traveled to San Juan from their home near South Bend, Indiana, bringing their toddler, an older son, and several family members, including her grandfather, Anello. 

    According to the family, the little girl had run over to a wall of windows on the side of the cruise ship, as Anello followed closely behind. Chloe was used to banging on the glass partition while watching her older brother's hockey games, and Anello could tell she wanted to get a closer look at what was outside. So her grandfather lifted her up and placed her on the windowsill. The only problem was, the window pane he thought was directly in front of her had been removed, and seconds later, she slipped from his grip to the pier below.

  • Van Drunick recalled hearing harrowing screams from the 11th-floor deck and racing up to a scene of "chaos."

    "The grandfather was being escorted (assisted on both sides, from other people) crying and sobbing," Van Drunick's statement explained. "The grandfather collapsed on his hands and knees in the corner of the elevator. He was distraught sobbing, crying, saying: 'I dropped my baby, I dropped my baby."

    When Van Drunick bent down to ask him what happened, Anello repeated the same claim he has maintained in the months that followed: "I thought the window was closed."

    It was later revealed that Anello is colorblind, which could have contributed to his inability to distinguish between a glass window pane and open air.

  • Much speculation has been made about how exactly Anello could have miscalculated such a crucial detail -- and if the cruise line is truly to blame.

    In fact, that very question is at the center of his upcoming case, as well as the lawsuit the Wiegands have waged against Royal Caribbean. Although the Wiegands argue that the cruise ship should never have had an open window so accessible in a children's play area, Royal Caribbean maintains that it was in full compliance with industry safety standards and that the child never would have fallen if Anello hadn't lifted her up and put her in harm's way.

  • Video surveillance of the incident is expected to be hotly debated during the lawsuit as well as the trial. 

    According to Anello's lawyer, José G. Pérez Ortiz, it backs up the grandfather's claim of what happened.

    "What I saw with the video, it's pretty consistent with what my client has told me," Ortiz told the IndyStar of the footage. "My client thought that the window was closed. Nothing in the video is inconsistent."

    But in a January 8 court filing, Royal Caribbean alleged that the surveillance video does in fact show the 51-year-old grandfather acted in a "reckless and irresponsible” manner, leaning out of the open window for several seconds shortly before he picked the child up and placed her on its ledge.

  • In response to the filing, the Wiegands have blasted the cruise line for releasing misleading images that falsely portray what happened.

    “Royal Caribbean has demonstrably lied to this court and, in so doing, Royal Caribbean has created a false narrative to accompany Royal Caribbean’s carefully selected CCTV video upon which Royal Caribbean bases its motion to dismiss,” stated a court filing from the family obtained by NBC News.

    According to the Wiegands, whose legal team has thoroughly investigated the scene of the accident, it was "impossible" for the grandfather to have leaned out the window -- a wooden railing stands about 18 inches in front of it. During a re-creation of the accident, the Wiegands' lawyer (who is the same height as Anello) “had to lift his feet at least seven inches off the ground” just to reach the window with the top of his head.

    "[The attorney] could not lean ‘out of the window frame’ due to the distance between the railing and the window frame," the statement asserted. "In fact, it would have been physically impossible for Mr. Anello to have had his head out of the window frame with his feet on the deck."

  • Van Drunick also described trying to comfort Chloe's distraught parents in the chaotic moments after the accident.

    "The parents were emotionally traumatized, asking to see their child," he relayed to police. "The parents were kept separated from the ER/Grandfather."

    During that time, the doctor said that Chloe's mother, Kimberly, was given a sedative to calm her, though Anello refused one for himself.

    "He was sitting in one of the ward rooms on the chairs, having calmed down but bursting into tears every time anyone spoke to him," the doctor recalled.

  • In November, Anello sat down with 'CBS This Morning 'for his first interview since the tragedy, and once again could not contain his heartbreak.

    "I remember trying to find her on the floor and then I saw her fall," Anello recalled. "I saw her fall the whole way down.

    "I saw her fall and I was just in disbelief," he continued. "I was like, 'Oh my god.'"

    The horror of what he had just witnessed left the grandfather in a state of shock.

    "And then, I just remember screaming I thought there was glass," he said. "I thought there was glass there. I still say it to myself. It's just I kind of relive it all the time and I ... I just thought there was glass there. I don't know what else to tell you."

  • Anello awaits his trial later this spring. Meanwhile, the Wiegands have blasted Royal Caribbean for blaming him for the incident.

    The family maintains that had safety signs been set up in front of the open window, the tragedy never would have happened. They also are accusing Royal Caribbean of creating “a false narrative" by releasing video stills from only two of 13 cameras that captured the toddler's fall. According to NBC, the Wiegands have since filed a motion to force the cruise line to release surveillance video from all 13 cameras, so the public has the whole picture of what happened that fateful day.

    Anello faces up to three years in prison if convicted. He was offered a plea deal last month, which would involve no jail time, but has yet to make a decision as to whether he'll accept it.