VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana man charged with negligent homicide in his granddaughter’s fatal plunge from a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico insists he didn’t realize an 11th-floor window was open before the 18-month-old fell.
Salvatore Anello told “CBS This Morning” that Chloe Wiegand fell to her death in July after he lifted her to a window on the Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas so she could bang on the glass as she did at hockey games.
The 51-year-old Valparaiso man said he was trying to stand her on the window’s railing when she plunged from the open window to the dock far below. He said that “it happened in seconds.”
“I saw her fall. I saw her fall the whole way down. I saw her fall, and I was just in disbelief. I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and then I just remember screaming that I thought there was glass there,” Anello said in an interview that aired Tuesday.
Sobbing as he recalled the events leading up to the child’s deadly fall, he said he’s colorblind and that may be why he didn’t realize the tinted window was open.
“I just never saw it. I’ve been told that that’s a reason it might have happened,” he said, referring to the eyesight condition.
Anello was charged with negligent homicide last month in Chloe’s death. Puerto Rico’s attorney general and other officials said in a news release announcing the charge that Anello had “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor of the cruise ship,” The Indianapolis Star reported.
An attorney for the Wiegand family, Michael Winkleman, has called Chloe’s death “a tragic accident,” and said that the family, who is from the northern Indiana community of Granger, plans to file a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean.
Winkleman has said that Chloe had wanted to bang on the glass “like she always did at her older brother’s hockey games” the family attended. But he said the window was inexplicably left open in a children’s play area.
Anello’s attorney, José G. Pérez Ortiz, told The Star that surveillance video of the incident is consistent with the grandfather’s assertion that he believed the window was closed.
“My client thought that the window was closed,” Ortiz said. “Nothing in the video is inconsistent.”
Prosecutors delivered that video and other evidence to the defense last week, Ortiz said. Anello is scheduled to appear Dec. 17 in court in Puerto Rico.
Anello said that he initially blamed himself for his granddaughter’s death, but now believes the cruise line should have had a sign posted warning that windows in the area where she fell could be open.
If there was such a sign, he said, “this wouldn’t have happened.”