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For the past several months, I have been following the story of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand’s death on a Royal Caribbean ship last year. In case you’re not familiar with the story, the toddler fell out of a cruise ship window while docked in Puerto Rico and died when she hit the concrete pier. Her grandfather was holding her.
Puerto Rican news agencies originally reported that the grandfather was dangling the girl outside of the cruise ship window. The family contends that he thought the window was closed, and he was holding her up to bang on the glass.
The family is suing Royal Caribbean for negligence. The grandfather was charged with negligent homicide in Puerto Rico, and he originally pleaded innocent.
In the past few months, Royal Caribbean released surveillance tapes from inside the cruise ship. I’m not going to link them here, but if you’re curious you can search for them on YouTube. From what I can tell from the videos, the grandfather clearly knew the window was open, as he is leaning way out of it at one point before he picks up the girl.
Yesterday, the grandfather, Salvatore Anello, reversed his plea and pleaded guilty to the charge of negligent homicide. He did this in exchange for a deal that means no jail time. If his plea and the agreement are accepted in court, he will serve his probation hours in his home state of Indiana. You can read more about this case here and here.
Why This Story Haunts Me
This story has haunted me since the day it happened. I was on a Royal Caribbean ship a month before this family. I saw the windows on the pool deck and noticed how a few were open. My daughter and I stood in front of an open window and gazed out at sea.
I’ve also been on a cruise with a toddler. My youngest was 20 months old when we went on our first cruise. My husband and I were super paranoid about her safety. If we were carrying her, we made sure we were several feet back from the railings up on deck. We knew that a wiggly toddler or a bump from another passenger could send her out of our arms.
It’s easy for people to judge this grandfather and this family. This case has been a big topic on cruise message boards and in cruise social media groups. Frequent cruisers argue that the open windows are easy to spot, as the closed windows have a dark tint. The railings are also quite high, so it’s impossible for a child to fall out of a window without assistance. Many are put off that the family is suing Royal Caribbean because of a grandfather’s negligence.
But, we must all realize that we never know how we would act in a situation until we are put in that situation ourselves. And, as parents, many of us have made mistakes that thankfully haven’t had dire consequences. The phrase “There but for the grace of God, go I” comes to mind.
The family is still hurting and grieving, and likely will be forever. I imagine you never get over losing a child. And, can you imagine how difficult it would be to place the blame on your own parent?
I hope this new plea brings peace to the Wiegand family and the ability for them to heal and move forward. The grandfather’s punishment by the court is nothing compared to how he will punish himself for the rest of his life.
I also hope that the case will serve as a wake-up call to families to remain vigilant with their children on cruise ships and on vacations in general.
Have you followed this case in the news? What do you think of this latest development?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.