The grandfather who is facing criminal charges for dropping toddler Chloe Weigand from the 11th deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Puerto Rico nearly breaks down in tears as he recalls how she slipped from his grasp and fell to her death.
Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello, of Indiana, spoke out in his first TV interview since he was charged with negligent homicide, where he maintained that the fatal fall was an accident.
‘I remember trying to find her on the floor and then I saw her fall, I saw her fall, I saw her fall and I was just in disbelief. And I was like “Oh my God,”‘ he said in a sit down interview with CBS This Morning, choking with emotion.
‘And I think for a while I was in shock and I was just standing there. And then I just remember screaming that I thought there was glass. I thought there was glass. I still say it to myself, it’s just, I kind of relive it all the time and I just thought there was glass there. I don’t know what else to tell you,’ he added with his eyes downcast.
Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello is speaking out in his first interview since he was charged with negligent homicide for dropping his toddler granddaughter Chloe Weigand from the 11th deck of a Royal Caribbean ship docked in Puerto Rico and she fell 150ft to her death in July
‘I remember trying to find her on the floor and then I saw her fall, I saw her fall, I saw her fall and I was just in disbelief,’ the Indiana grandfather said, choking on tears, in his CBS interview. Anello pictured above holding baby Chloe
Chloe’s family maintain Anello lifted Chloe up so she could bang on the glass, as she loved to do at her older brother’s ice hockey games, unaware the clear pane had been slid open (pictured)
‘It seems like it’s all not real. She’s such a beautiful little girl. Perfect little girl,’ Anello said in a preview for his interview set to air on CBS This Morning on Tuesday.
The horror accident took place on July 7 on what was supposed to be the first day of the family’s dream seven-night Caribbean cruise vacation.
He was lifting little Chloe towards an open window on the 11th deck on the cruise ship Freedom of the Seas when the child fell from his grasp and tumbled out the window and onto the concrete Pan American II dock below.
Doctors stationed on board the 15-deck ship raced to save the toddler but she was declared dead at the scene having suffered suspected blunt force trauma to her head consistent with a fall.
Anello was arrested and charged by Puerto Rican Authorities in October. He made his first court appearance on Wednesday as Puerto Rican prosecutors insisted it was their ‘duty’ to charge him with negligent homicide. If found guilty, the elderly IT worker faces three years in prison.
A pre-trial conference is set for December 17.
Salvatore Anello Grandfather of little girl killed on Cruise ship pictured in court in San Juan Superior Court
Anello is accused of lifting Chloe, 18 months, towards an open window before she tumbled 150ft to her death on to a concrete dock on July 7. She died on impact
Chloe’s parents Alan and Kimberly Weigand have been steadfast in their support for the maternal grandfather, instead blaming and threatening to sue Royal Caribbean for ‘inexplicably’ leaving a window open in a family play area.
They maintain Anello lifted Chloe up so she could bang on the glass as she loved to do at her older brother’s ice hockey games, unaware the pane had been slid open.
Puerto Rican authorities say they plan to use a handful of eyewitnesses as well as on-board CCTV footage of Chloe going overboard to prove Anello’s guilt when the case goes to trial.
But attorneys for Anello say the exact same footage – taken from two separate angles overlooking the pool area – exonerates the grieving granddad and proves it was simply a tragic accident.
Anello was questioned by police in the hours after Chloe’s fall but left San Juan without giving a formal witness statement, blaming confusion, his extreme distress and the lack of an interpreter.
Chloe’s parents Alan and Kimberly Weigand have been steadfast in their support for the maternal grandfather, instead blaming and threatening to sue Royal Caribbean for ‘inexplicably’ leaving a window open in a family play area
Forensic experts studied the boat’s windows, furniture and layout in the wake of the accident for clues as to how the child could have gone overboard
Pictured: A railing against an open window on a Royal Caribbean ship, which Anello’s lawyers say is nearly identical to the one Chloe fell through
Anello voluntarily returned to Puerto Rico, however, when a judge issued an arrest warrant and he learned last month there was probable cause to charge him with negligent homicide.
‘Had the cruise line simply followed proper safety guidelines for windows, this accident likely would never have happened,’ Michael Winkleman, the attorney representing Chloe’s parents in a legal action against Royal Caribbean, said.
He slammed the charges as ‘pouring salt in their open wounds’.
‘They’re in the beginning stages of a lengthy process that is grief. They were trying to put their lives back together, and you throw this into the mix and it puts them back to square one,’ Winkleman said.
When they told me Chloe had died, I didn’t know she went out a window,’ Chloe’s mother Kimberly, 36, said in an interview with Today.
‘I just saw Sam standing next to the wall of windows, screaming and banging on it and there was like somebody trying to stop me. I just kept saying, ”Take me to my baby. Where is my baby?”
‘I didn’t know she had gone out the window. Then I looked over, and it wasn’t water beneath, it was concrete. To lose our baby this way is just unfathomable.
‘I never want another mother to have to experience what I had to, to see what I had to see or scream or how I had to scream.’