The grandfather of a toddler who died aboard a cruise ship this summer was apparently in talks about a possible plea deal while at a court hearing in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Chloe Wiegand, an 18-month-old toddler from Granger, Indiana, was on a cruise with family when she lost her life aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship. The ship was docked in Puerto Rico at the time of the incident, on July 7.
Chloe died after falling from the 11th floor and landing on the hard, concrete surface of the Pan American dock. She was playing with her grandfather, Salvatore Anello, in the children’s H2O Zone children’s water park when she fell from an open window.
Last month, San Juan Investigations Chamber Judge Jimmy Sepúlveda ruled that prosecutors provided probable cause for the arrest of Anello. He’s currently facing a negligent homicide charge.
According to ABC News, Anello’s lawyer, Jose Perez, said the man was not at all interested in taking a plea deal. Perez added that “the parties have talked about an agreement in general terms but nothing specific and nothing on paper.”
“He is firm that he is innocent,” defense attorney Jose Perez said.
Perez added that they plan to call on Anello’s doctor to testify and plan to have experts analyze Anello’s medical records. Anello previously told CBS he was colorblind and couldn’t tell that glass was missing from the cruise ship window.
“I remember trying to find her on the floor and then I saw her fall, I saw her fall, I saw her fall and I was just in disbelief. And I was like ‘Oh my God.’ And I think for a while I was in shock and I was just standing there. And then I just remember screaming that I thought there was glass. I thought there was glass.”
“I am color blind so that’s something that … I don’t know. I just never saw it. I’ve been told that’s a reason it may have happened.” – Salvatore Anello
EXCLUSIVE: Salvatore Anello, the grandfather charged with negligent homicide after his 18-month-old granddaughter fell from the window of a cruise ship, opens up to @DavidBegnaud: "I remember screaming that I thought there was glass."
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) November 25, 2019
Meanwhile, although authorities think Anello’s actions align with negligent homicide, his family thinks otherwise. Chloe’s parents said the cruise line was at fault for having an open window by a children’s play area.
Last week, the family filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean.
“Mr. Anello was closely supervising Chloe as she played,” the lawsuit stated. “Unknown to Mr. Anello at that time, this was not, in fact, a wall of fixed glass.”
“There was not a single, adequate indication that this wall of glass panes was not actually a wall of fixed glass panes, but instead a wall of glass with glass panes that could actually slide and remain open, as windows. For instance, none of the glass panes, which were mere feet from the kids’ H2O Zone, contained a warning, design decal on the glass, or anything to warn passengers, such as Mr. Anello, of the hidden danger that some of the glass pane windows in the middle row may be slid open.”
“She slipped from Mr. Anello’s arms, falling through the open pane and down approximately 150 feet below,” the lawsuit said.
“This is not some freak accident,” family lawyer Michael Winkleman told NBC News. “This is something that was a preventable accident…These windows are entirely not compliant with the standard for windows on cruise ships.”
“Carnival and [Norwegian Cruise Line] and even newer Royal Caribbean cruise ships have windows that are wholly compliant with these window fall prevention codes.”
Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Chloe Wiegand/Family Handout]