Grandfather’s screams after girl’s fall
A grandfather who allegedly dropped his 18-month-old granddaughter from the 11th floor of a cruise ship docked at Puerto Rico has spoken out for the first time in an emotional television interview.
Choking back tears, Salvatore 'Sam' Anello told CBS This Morning that he relived the excruciating moment he dropped toddler Chloe Weigand "all the time".
It's alleged the 50-year-old held her up to what he thought was a closed window to allow her to bang on the glass, a game she loved to play at home.
But the pane of glass was an open window and she fell straight through.
Mr Anello has now been charged with negligent homicide, though the family, including Chloe's parents, insists it was an accident.
"I remember trying to find her on the floor and then I saw her fall," Mr Anello told CBS.
"I saw her fall the whole way down. I saw her fall and I was just in disbelief. And I was like 'Oh my God'."
Mr Anello said he remembered being in shock and then screaming, "I thought there was glass".
"For a while I was in shock and I was just standing there. And then I just remember screaming '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 said.
"It seems like it's all not real. She's such a beautiful little girl. Perfect little girl."
I interviewed Sam Anello.— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) November 26, 2019
Puerto Rican prosecutors charged him with negligent homicide; he dropped his granddaughter from a cruise ship. Tomorrow on @CBSThisMorning, he tells his story for the 1st time & reveals what may become a key part of his defense pic.twitter.com/shbOPssZYY
A judge was expected to set a trial date for Mr Anello last week, but postponed the decision until next month.
Puerto Rican prosecutors say they have witnesses from both on and off the island that they can call to testify, so the judge has postponed proceedings until they can share their evidence with the defence.
CCTV footage of the incident is also likely to prove crucial to the case, according to the family's lawyer Michael Winkleman.
"You have to assume that it shows something that really led the Puerto Rican authorities to believe there was criminal offence, so clearly there's something in that video," he said.
Mr Anello's full interview with CBS will air on Wednesday (local time).
Earlier this year, Chloe's parents Kimberley and Alan Wiegand broke down as they described the "unfathomable" tragedy on the US version of TODAY.
They and their three children had been on board the 'Freedom of the Seas' ship in San Juan along with both sets of grandparents when the tragedy occurred.
"I didn't know that she went out a window," Ms Wiegand said.
"I just saw Sam standing next to the wall of windows just screaming and banging on it. There was somebody from Royal Caribbean they kept trying to stop me. I just kept saying take me to my baby, where is my baby? I didn't even notice the window.
"I looked over it and it wasn't water down there, it was concrete. Honestly to lose our baby this way is just unfathomable."
“The first 30 seconds of the day, I don’t remember what happened. And then, it comes back and I relive what happened.” Kimberly Wiegand says of her late 18-month-old daughter, Chloe, who died after falling from a cruise ship pic.twitter.com/VNoQ2RzvAC— TODAY (@TODAYshow) July 22, 2019
The couple said Mr Anello had been "very, very distraught" ever since Chloe's death.
"You can barely look at him without him crying, she was his best friend," Mr Wiegand said.
At the time of the horror incident in July, Mr Anello blamed Royal Caribbean for failing to close the window inside the child's play area.
Prosecutor Laura Hernandez denied the cruise company had any influence in the decision to bring the charge against Mr Anello.