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Grandfather charged in toddler’s cruise-ship death says he’s colorblind: ‘That’s a reason that it might have happened’

Salvatore Anello, who is charged with negligent homicide, spoke with CBS News in his first interview after the tragedy.

Salvatore Anello pictured with Chloe Wiegand. (Courtesy of the Wiegand family)

In his first interview since the tragic incident, Salvatore Anello — whose granddaughter Chloe Wiegand fell from the window of a cruise ship — said the outcome of the trial he’s expected to face in the criminal investigation into charges of negligent homicide doesn’t matter, because losing the girl was “the worst thing ever.”

“Whether, you know, they find me guilty of whatever or not, it’s inconsequential, because … what has already happened is so horrible,” Anello told CBS News.

In July, Chloe slipped from Anello’s grasp and fell more than 10 stories after being placed near a bay of windows he believed were closed. According to video aboard the cruise ship, which has not been publicly released, Anello lifted his granddaughter up to a window so she could bang on it like she did at her brother’s hockey games.

The windows next to the open section appear to be tinted, a crucial detail that Anello may have missed because, he says, he’s colorblind and wouldn’t have perceived the lighting difference.

“I don’t know. I just never saw it,” he said. “I’ve been told that that’s a reason that it might have happened.”

During the interview, Anello appeared to be overcome with emotion as he wept, and at one point had to take a break to collect himself. Through his retelling of the moments that led up to the fall, Anello expressed the pain of his realization that his granddaughter was gone.

“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.’ 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 says.

During the summer, Chloe’s parents blamed Royal Caribbean for the accident, and while Anello said he initially blamed himself, he now places the fault on the cruise line for the lack of signage indicating an open window and called on them to correct the mistake so no one else has to experience this situation.

“I just want them to fix the boat. Just fix it. Just fix the boat,” he said.

Anello is scheduled to be back in court Dec. 17. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

The parents, Kimberly and Alan Wiegand, plan to file a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean. The company maintains the incident is a tragic accident and declined to speak with media out of respect for the family’s privacy during the criminal case.

A spokesperson for Michael Winkleman, the family’s attorney, provided a statement to the Washington Post: “The family was pleased with Sam’s interview as it gave a glimpse into Sam’s love for Chloe and it also touched on what a special child she was. Sam’s interview further makes clear that this was a tragic accident and that there are no grounds for any criminal charges against Sam. It is the family’s wish that any and all criminal charges be dropped so that they can grieve as a family.”

To close out the interview, Anello said his lowest moments are likely still ahead. For now, his thoughts remain with Chloe.

“It seems like it’s all not real. She’s such a beautiful little girl. Perfect little girl,” he said.

Hannah Sampson contributed to this report.

Read more:

Tourists recall a mother’s tormented cries after toddler fell from cruise ship to her death

Is cruising safe? Most of the time, but beware of what can go wrong.

‘At a certain point, you just lose it:’ Passengers revolt and riot aboard Norwegian Spirit cruise ship

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