Salvatore Anello, the grandfather of the 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand who fell to her death from an open window on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico, reveals he will plead guilty to end the nightmare that is affecting his family.
“I took a plea deal today to try to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible,” Salvatore Anello stated on Tuesday, shortly after a family attorney announced the grandfather’s intention to change his plea.
Anello, also known as Sam, initially pleaded not guilty to a negligent homicide charge in from Puerto Rican authorities back in October regarding the death of Chloe in July.
Anello will be able to serve his probation in the state of Indiana, as he lives in South Bend, according to Winkleman.
Winkleman shared how the deal “is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe.”
Anello also took a moment to thank his family for sticking by him.
“The support they continue to give me has been beyond overwhelming and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for them,” adding how justice for Chloe should include focusing on safety measures on the cruise ship from which the toddler fell, Freedom of the Seas.
“We need to make sure nothing like this will ever happen to another precious baby, or anyone else for that matter, ever again,” Anello said.
A hearing date for the change of plea is yet to be determined.
In December, the Wiegand family filed a federal civil action against Royal Caribbean Cruises, alleging that the company was at fault for the accident. And after Royal Caribbean sought to block it, a judge approved the suit this month.
Chloe was with her mom on the 11th-floor deck in a children’s water park area when her mother had to tend to another matter. It was then Anello came to supervise her, according to the family’s lawsuit.
“Mr. Anello was closely supervising Chloe as she played,” the suit says. When “Chloe walked over to a nearby wall of glass on the same deck,” her grandfather followed her.
The family alleges Anello put Chloe up to the window to bang on the glass when she slipped from his hands through the window, which ultimately led to her death from the ship’s 11th story.
Anello continues to insist that he believed that the window was enclosed by glass despite it being open.
“In my experience, any elevated public place I’ve been with that much glass has always been a protective barrier,” he said in his statement. “From my point of view, at the moment the accident happened, it was as if this wall of protective glass disappeared. I was in complete disbelief. It was a nightmare of the likes I could never have imagined before.”
He continued, adding: “I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t dangling her out of a window. I just wanted to knock on the glass with her as we did together so many times before. I was just so horribly wrong about our surroundings.”
Anello says failing to keep Chloe safe is a “constant nightmare” that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Back in November, he informed CBS there were no signs indicating the windows were open. He also stated he is colorblind, which may have been why he had trouble distinguishing between the tinted closed windows and the open window.
“We obviously blame them for not having a safer situation on the 11th floor of that cruise ship,” Kim Wiegand said. “There are a million things that could’ve been done to make that safer.”