A grandfather who was charged over the fatal fall of his young granddaughter from an 11th-deck window of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.
Salvatore “Sam” Anello of Valparaiso, Indiana, said earlier this year he would drop a not-guilty plea to help end what he called “this nightmare” for his family.
Eighteen-month-old Chloe Wiegand slipped from his grasp and fell about 45 metres from an open window of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Freedom of the Seas ship in July last year.
Puerto Rico prosecutor Laura Hernández said on Thursday (local time) Anello would be sentenced on December 10.
“We have found justice for Chloe,” she said.
Defence attorney Michael Winkleman said in a statement Anello would not face any jail time and he would serve probation in 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,” he said.
Anello, 51, has repeatedly said he did not know the window in the children’s play area was open and he lifted Chloe up to it so she could knock on the glass like she had done at her brother’s hockey games.
“I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t dangling her out of a window,” he said in a previous statement. He said he is colourblind and might not have realised the tinted window was open.
The girl’s parents sued Royal Caribbean last year and accused the company of negligence.
In response, Royal Caribbean said surveillance video showed Anello leaning out the window for about eight seconds before lifting the girl by and out of the open window for 34 seconds before he lost his grip.
The family said it would have been physically impossible for Anello to lean out like that.
The civil case is ongoing.
Royal Caribbean did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
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