Reports of Saldanha's death were circulating before the Daily Mail published an article online suggesting that she had killed herself after taking a prank call from Australian radio station 2Day FM about the Duchess of Cambridge.
"Somebody on our digital side put the story up straight away with a comment," Chris Blackhurst told the Press Gazette.
"And immediately people saw this and there was a lot of activity on Twitter."
He added: "The point was that the person who wrote the comment didn't really know the facts - because nobody at that stage knew the facts.
"It came down immediately once we realised what had happened.... We're The Independent. Even if it means coming second third or fourth - or even tenth - we can't sacrifice our accuracy for that."
Blackhurst continued: "Obviously if we had got the story up first and the reaction then that would have gone all over the world, the number of hits for our website would have been fantastic... there would have been high fives all round, et cetera, et cetera.
"And that really is the issue the internet causes. It's about being first - you have to be first."