SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The grandfather of an Indiana toddler who fell to her death from the 11th story of a cruise ship after he held her up on a railing was sentenced to three years of probation Monday, according to Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice.
Salvatore "Sam" Anello of Valparaiso, Indiana, said last year that 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 150 feet from an open window of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Freedom of the Seas ship in July 2019.
Wiegand’s death occurred at the Panamerican dock in the capital of San Juan.
Anello was with her in the kids’ play zone of the cruise ship where there was a "wall of all windows," according to family attorney Michael Winkleman of the Miami-based firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman.
Winkleman said that Chloe, from Granger, Indiana, enjoyed watching her older brother play hockey and loved to bang on the glass during games. Chloe’s grandfather, thinking she’d love to bang on the glass, brought her over to the windows and put her up on a wood railing, according to the attorney.
But the window was open.
"She goes to bang on the glass and the next thing that he knows, she’s gone," Winkleman said during a press conference in 2019.
The family’s attorney called Chloe’s death "a tragic accident that was preventable."
Anello, 51, repeatedly said he did not know the window in the children’s play area was open and that 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 colorblind and might not have realized the tinted window was open.
The girl’s parents sued Royal Caribbean in 2019 and accused the company of negligence. In response, Royal Caribbean said that surveillance video shows 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.
Royal Caribbean did not immediately respond for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.