The grandfather of a toddler who died after falling from a docked cruise ship's window last year has reportedly changed his plea to guilty just one day after requesting a judge-led trial.
Salvatore Anello, whose 18-month-old granddaughter Chloe Wiegand was killed in the fatal incident after her family boarded the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship in Puerto Rico last year, has been charged with negligent homicide.
His attorney released a statement shortly after reports in ABC News and the Washington Post that Mr Anello had changed his plea, saying the decision was “incredibly difficult” but “in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe”. As part of a plea deal, Mr Anello is not expected to face jail time over the death.
The statement also said the toddler’s family was committed to “fighting for cruise passenger safety by raising awareness about the need for all common carriers to adhere to window fall prevention laws designed to protect children from falling from windows”.
Mr Anello previously told CBS News that he was picking up his granddaughter so she could play on the glass as she did at hockey games before the fatal incident occurred.
“I saw her fall. I saw her fall the whole way down. I saw her fall, and I was just in disbelief,” he said at the time. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and then I just remember screaming that I thought there was glass there.”
The tinted window, located on the 11th floor of the cruise liner, had been opened while the ship was docked. Mr Anello said he was not aware at the time that the window was open when he brought his granddaughter over to it.
The grandfather also told CBS News he was colourblind and “never saw” the tinted window’s opening.
“I’ve been told that that’s a reason it might have happened”, he said about his vision.
The attorney general of Puerto Rico previously announced Mr Anello was being charged with negligent homicide, saying the grandfather “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor of the cruise ship”.
Attorneys for the family have described the toddler’s death as a “tragic accident” and said they were planning on filing a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean.
The family has also called for more safety measures aboard cruise ships, with Mr Anello telling CBS News last year that — had a sign warning passengers about the open window existed — “this wouldn’t have happened”.