Grandfather of 1-year-old who fell to her death from Royal Caribbean cruise ship to plead guilty

The grandfather of a toddler who died after falling from an 11th-floor window of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Puerto Rico last year will plead guilty in her death.

Salvatore “Sam” Anello initially pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide in the death of his 18-month-old granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand. But the family’s attorney, Michael Winkleman, told the Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network, that Anello filed documents to change his plea to guilty in return for no jail time. 

“I took a plea deal today to try to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible,” Anello said in a statement provided by Winkleman. “The support they continue to give me has been beyond overwhelming and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for them.”

On Monday, Anello declined his right to a jury trial and will instead face a judge. He will serve probation in Indiana, Winkleman added. 

The Star has reached out to officials from Royal Caribbean and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice for comment. 

Chloe died July 2019 as she vacationed with her family aboard the Freedom of the Seas of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Anello has said he did not know the window was open when he lifted Chloe to it so she could bang on the glass like she did during her brother’s hockey games.

Chloe Wiegand banging on the glass at a hockey game

Winkleman let a Star reporter and editor review Royal Caribbean surveillance footage that showed the toddler’s fall.

The video shows the toddler following her grandfather toward the big windows. Anello is seen leaning over an interior railing in front of the windows.

The video shows Anello lifting Chloe onto the railing. In an instant, she’s gone.

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The Wiegand family sued Royal Caribbean, accusing it of negligence by allowing the window in the ship’s children’s play area to be open. The cruise ship company, in court documents filed Jan. 8, puts all the blame on Anello.

“This is a case about an adult man,” Royal Caribbean said in its motion, “who, as surveillance footage unquestionably confirms: (1) walked up to a window he was aware was open; (2) leaned his upper body out the window for several seconds; (3) reached down and picked up Chloe; and (4) then held her by and out of the open window for thirty four seconds before he lost his grip and dropped Chloe out of the window.”

A hearing date for Anello’s change of plea has yet to be determined.

Contributing: Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star; Associated Press. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

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