Grandfather in tot's Royal Caribbean fatal fall to plead guilty

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The grief-stricken grandfather of a baby girl who fell more than 100 feet floor of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship will plead guilty to charges connected to her death, he announced in a statement Wednesday morning.

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“I was placed in charge of keeping my beautiful granddaughter safe and I failed. It will always be a constant nightmare every day and every night for the rest of my life.”

“I took a plea deal today to try to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible,” Salvatore “Sam” Anello said in a statement released at 8 a.m. through the family’s attorney. “Going forward, justice for Chloe must include attention being given to provide the safety measures so very needed on Freedom of the Sea.”

Photo of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand in the Freedom of the Seas’ H2O Zone. (Photo provided in lawsuit)

Anello was with his 18-month-old granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand, and their family during the first day of what was supposed to be a week-long vacation to Puerto Rico aboard the Freedom of the Seas.

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He and his granddaughter were in a child’s play area, where he lifted her onto a railing and held her “while she leaned forward to bang on the glass that Mr. Anello and Chloe thought to be in front of them,” previously released court papers show.

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But unbeknownst to Anello, the 11-floor window was open, and upon leaning forward, Wiegand fell out the window and more than 100 feet from the ship, court papers show.

“As for that horrible day, I can only tell you what I experienced. I was focused on Chloe the whole time I was with her,” Anello’s statement continued. “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.”

A picture of the crime scene (provided in the lawsuit)

“I was placed in charge of keeping my beautiful granddaughter safe and I failed. It will always be a constant nightmare every day and every night for the rest of my life.”

READ ALL OF SALVATORE “SAM” ANELLO’S STATEMENT HERE

As part of his plea deal, Anello will not have to serve jail time, only probation, which will be executed in his hometown of Indiana. His change of plea was submitted late Tuesday and a hearing for him to officially plead guilty has not yet been set.

"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,” the family’s attorney, Michael Winkleman said in a statement late Tuesday.

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Royal Caribbean Cruises, Freedom of the Seas cruise ship (iStock) 

Winkleman is overseeing the Wiegand family’s civil lawsuit against Royal Caribbean, which was filed in Dec. 2019.

The wrongful death suit slammed the cruise line for neglecting to provide warnings that any windows were open in a play area. Anello was not named a plaintiff in the court papers, Winkleman said.

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The maritime attorney told FOX Business Wednesday Anello and his family “wrestled with [the change of plea decision] for many months.”

“It really has little or no effect in the civil case because he is not a party to that case,” he said, adding in a statement: “We still maintain this was a tragic, preventable accident that never would have occurred if Royal Caribbean followed the industry-standard window fall prevention codes that are designed for the singular purpose of preventing children from falling out of windows."

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Royal Caribbean has since attempted to dismiss the civil suit, calling Anello "reckless and irresponsible" in subsequent court papers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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