The grandfather of an 18-month old girl who fell to her death from an open window 11 stories high aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship last year has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in Puerto Rico, where the incident took place.
Salvatore Anello, who first pleaded not guilty to the charge, said he decided to accept a plea deal that included no jail time, the ability to serve probation in his native Indiana and, more importantly, to close a chapter in the tragedy.
“I took a plea deal today to try to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible,” he said in a statement per NBC on Tuesday, after family attorney Michael Winkleman announced the decision.
When Chloe Wiegand fell to her death, the family immediately said there was an open window on the 11th deck of the Freedom of the Seas at a children’s waterpark. Puerto Rican authorities and Royal Caribbean claimed otherwise, hence the charges of negligence against the grandfather.
Anello reiterated his version in his statement on Tuesday.
“In my experience, any elevated public place I’ve been with that much glass has always been a protective barrier,” he said. “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. 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.”
Michael Winkleman, the attorney for the Wiegand family, told NBC News the plea deal “is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe.”
The Wiegand family filed a federal civil action in December against Royal Caribbean Cruises, alleging that the company was at fault for the accident. A judge approved the suit this month after Royal Caribbean sought to block it.
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