The grandfather of a toddler who died in a fall from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship window has said he will reject any plea deal after he was charged with the negligent homicide of the 18-month-old girl, according to reports.
Salvatore Anello has appeared in court in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a hearing on the case surrounding the death of Chloe Wiegand, who plummeted more than 150 feet after falling through an open window on the Freedom of the Seas vessel while it was docked on July 7.
Speaking to ABC News, Anello’s defense attorney Jose Perez said the 50-year-old continues to maintain his innocence and will reject a plea deal.
“The parties have talked about an agreement in general terms but nothing specific and nothing on paper,” Perez said. “He is firm that he is innocent.”
Speaking outside the court following the status hearing against Anello, Prosecutor Ivette Nieves said they have not formally approached Anello with a deal offer, but have also not rejected the idea.
Anello has denied being criminally responsible for Chloe’s death, maintaining that he placed her on a rail so she could bang on the glass like she used to do at her brother’s ice hockey games. He said she then accidentally fell through the open window as he believed there was a glass pane there.
“I was trying to reach the glass, and I know that we leaned over to try to have her reach the glass. And at that point she slipped,” Anello previously told CBS This Morning.
“I didn’t realize it wasn’t any glass till absolutely it was too late. I mean, even when she first fell, I thought she fell in front of me. I thought she fell in front of me.”
The family also believe that Royal Caribbean are to blame for Chloe’s death, asking why there was an open window on the 11th floor next to a children’s play area in the first place. The family is suing the cruise line company for negligence.
“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,” the suit states.
“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.”
Anello is due to next appear in court on January 27.
In a previous statement to Newsweek, Royal Caribbean said: “This was a tragic incident. Out of respect for the family’s privacy during this very sad time, and because the government has chosen to charge Mr. Salvatore Anello with negligent homicide in a matter now before the courts, we have no further comment.”
When contacted for comment on the suit, the company added: “Our hearts go out to the family for their tragic loss.
“Mr. Salvatore Anello is currently being criminally prosecuted for negligent homicide in the case. We refer you to the prosecutors for further comment.”
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