US & Canada

Cruise ship grandfather pleads guilty to toddler's accidental death

The girl liked to bang on glass, her family say Image copyright Family handout
Image caption The girl liked to bang on glass, her family say

A US grandfather charged with the death of his granddaughter aboard a cruise ship in Puerto Rico has decided to plead guilty.

Salvatore Anello was charged in October with negligent homicide after 18-month old Chloe Wiegand fell 11 storeys while playing on a Royal Caribbean ship.

He says he thought the window she fell through was protected.

"I took a plea deal today to try to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible," Mr Anello said.

A statement released by his family's lawyer, Michael Winkleman, says that Mr Anello will serve no jail time in Puerto Rico and will be allowed to serve probation in his home state of Indiana.

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Media captionGrandfather charged with toddler's death recalls the moment she fell from cruise ship

Mr Winkleman said 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".

How did Chloe fall?

On 7 July 2019, Chloe and her family were on vacation when the cruise ship was docked in San Juan.

Mr Anello put her on the railing of a children's play area, believing there was glass there, the family claims.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Lisbon, Portugal

She fell through a large, open window, landing on the concrete dock below.

According to Mr Winkleman, "Chloe wanted to bang on the glass" as she did during her brother's hockey games.

'I wasn't drinking'

In his statement, Mr Anello called the death a "constant nightmare" and said he drew support from people who had been contacting him to tell them their own stories about losing young children.

"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," he said.

US family blames cruise for toddler fall death

The family has sued Royal Caribbean, with Chloe's parents telling NBC last year: "We obviously blame them for not having a safer situation on the 11th floor of that cruise ship."

"There are a million things that could've been done to make that safer," added Kim Wiegand.

The cruise ship company has denied any legal culpability, saying the blame lies with Mr Anello alone.

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