Family 'in Shock' After Baby Apparently Slips from Grandfather's Hands & Falls from Cruise Ship
The 1½-year-old girl from Indiana was reportedly on a family trip when, authorities say, she came loose from her grandfather’s grip and tumbled out an open window.
The family of the baby girl, who reportedly slipped out of her grandfather’s hands and fell to her death from a docked cruise ship over the weekend, is struggling to come to terms with the unimaginable tragedy.
Police Sgt. Nelson Sotelo told the Associated Press on Monday that the 1½-year-old girl’s family, of Granger, Indiana, are “in shock” following Sunday’s tragic incident.
Sgt. Sotelo also identified the man who reportedly had been holding the little girl as her maternal grandfather, Salvatore Anello of Valparaiso, Indiana, the outlet reports. Anello is currently under investigation by authorities, Sgt. Sotelo said, but has not been charged.
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Though the toddler has yet to be identified, the South Bend Police Department announced in a statement on Facebook that her father was one of their officers, Alan Wiegand.
“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 SBPD wrote on Monday. “The department asks the community to pray for the entire Wiegand family as they grieve and to respect their privacy.”
The incident, which occurred on the Royal Caribbean ship, Freedom of the Seas, was confirmed on Twitter by several officials, including the Department of Public Safety of Puerto Rico; Anthony Maceira, Puerto Rico’s Secretary for Public Affairs; and the cruise line.
“Unfortunately the news of an accident [involving] a baby on a cruise is true,” Maceira wrote, referring to the incident as “a real tragedy.” “The [Department of Public Safety] is working the issue with the seriousness and sensitivity required.”
“We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident, and our hearts go out to the family. We’ve made our Care Team available to assist the family with any resources they need,” the Royal Carribean spokesperson told PEOPLE. “Out of respect for their privacy, we do not plan to comment further on the incident.”
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The toddler was on a family trip with her parents, two siblings and both sets of grandparents, according to the Associated Press.
Puerto Rico Ports Authority spokesman José Carmona told the outlet that the Indiana family was at a dining hall on the 11th floor when Anello allegedly sat the toddler on the edge of a window. It is not clear whether someone had opened the window or if it had already been opened.
According to the Associated Press, South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski disputed earlier claims that the girl was being held out of a window in an interview with WSBT television.
Secretary of Public Security, Elmer Roman, had previously told Primera Horathat the little girl reportedly hit an awning as she fell and eventually landed on the pavement on the Pan American dock in San Juan.
“It’s a very grave scene, very regrettable and tragic,” Roman told the outlet, according to CBS News. “One of the grandfathers, whom it would appear was playing with the little girl, lifted her out of the open window and lost his grip.”
Witnesses told Telemundo PR they heard the anguished cries of her family and that her mother’s cry did “not compare to any other scream.”
Authorities are investigating and will rely on interviews with family members and security camera footage to determine what happened.
The girl’s family will reportedly remain in U.S. territory until the investigation is complete, Sgt. Sotelo told the Associated Press on Monday. He also noted that authorities have not yet been able to interview any relatives.
According to Seascanner, the ship was leaving on Sunday for a seven-day cruise to islands like St. Lucia and Barbados. It is currently in St. Maarten and scheduled to return to San Juan on July 14.