Grandfather pleads guilty in death of toddler who fell from cruise ship

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Salvatore Anello, the man charged in his 1-year-old granddaughter’s fatal fall from a cruise ship window last summer, pled guilty to negligent homicide on Thursday after more than a year of legal battles, the family’s legal team confirmed to CBS News. Anello will not serve any jail time and will serve probation in his home state of Indiana.

“This decision was an incredibly difficult one for Sam and the family, but because the plea agreement includes no jail time and no admission of facts, it was decided 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 and fighting for cruise passenger safety,” the family’s attorney said.  

Anello first said he would drop his not guilty plea in February in an effort “to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible.”

Last July, Chloe Wiegand fell 150 feet from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico after Anello held her up against what he said he believed to be a set of closed windows and she slipped from his hands. 

Surveillance video obtained by CBS News shows the moments before Wiegand’s fall, as she runs to the windows with Anello following behind her. Anello then leans over the railing to look out, picks her up, and holds her over the railing before she falls, CBS News previously reported. 

Anello has repeatedly said he believed there was glass, and that he never would have held her over the railing if he had known there was no barrier.

“At the moment the accident happened, it was as if this wall of protective glass disappeared,” Anello said in a statement. “I was in complete disbelief … 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 placed in charge of keeping my beautiful granddaughter safe and I failed.”

His family did not press charges, but Puerto Rican prosecutors charged him with negligent homicide.  

“Chloe being gone is the worst thing ever. So I’m like, whatever,” Anello told CBS News in November 2019 about the criminal investigation. “There’s nothing worse that they could do to me than what’s already happened.”

Wiegand’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Royal Caribbean in December, alleging that the company did not “provide reasonably safe children entertainment areas, including reasonably safe windows.” A family attorney told CBS News that the ship was not in compliance with industry safety regulations that would have required it to have fall prevention window guards, screens and a device that would have kept the window from opening more than four inches. 

“It’s our clear allegation in the complaint that they either knew about these window safety, window fall prevention codes or should have known about them because it’s the industry standard,” the attorney said.

“If they would have followed the safety codes and updated their ship, all their ships, then it never would have happened,” her father said when the lawsuit was announced. “She’d still be here today.” 

The family’s legal team on Thursday reaffirmed that the lawsuit is ongoing. “Sadly, all of the discovery and evidence taken so far in the case confirms that this was a tragic, preventable accident and that there are absolutely no grounds to bring criminal charges against Sam Anello,” the legal team said. 

David Begnaud contributed reporting.