Grandfather pleads guilty in cruise ship death

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SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- A family vacation, taking a tragic turn.

18-month-old Chloe Wiegand, who was on the 11th floor of a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship in Puerto Rico in July 2019 with her grandpa, Sam Anello, fell to her death out of an open window. Anello said he didn't realize the window was open when Chloe slipped from his grasp, and has plead guilty to negligent homicide. serving no jail time in Puerto Rice, but will serve probation in Indiana.

“Whether, you know, they find me guilty of whatever or not, its consequential because of what already happened. It’s so horrible,” Chloe’s grandfather Sam Anello said in an interview in 2019.

South Bend Defense Attorney Stan Wruble said this is not an unusual outcome.

“I’ve had cases before of similar nature where the death or the killing is not intended, it was not intentional it was more of an accident or negligent act, still that’s not unusual to be on probation particularly when it’s involving a family member,” Wruble said.

The Wiegand family Attorney, Michael Winkleman said in a statement about Anello’s plea deal:

“This decision was an incredibly difficult one for Sam and the family...it was decided the plea deal is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe and fighting for cruise passenger safety.”

The Wiegand family is still suing Royal Caribbean, claiming the cruise line shouldn’t have had the window open near a children’s play area without proper warning signs.

However, Wruble said the lawsuit may be more difficult to pursue after Anello's guilty plea.

“The civil lawsuit is being defended by lawyers who are now going to say wait a minute it wasn’t our faulty cruise ship window or our lack of proper training or whatever the grounds for the civil lawsuit are, they will in fact say this was the grandfathers actions that lead to the death,” Wruble said.

Her family said Chloe liked to bang on windows at her older brothers hockey games and was trying to do the same on the cruise ship.

When Anello spoke last year, you could tell he was heartbroken.

“I saw her fall, I saw her fall all the way down. I saw her fall and I was just in disbelief. I was like oh my god. I just remember screaming that I thought there was glass,” Anello said.

Royal Caribbean would not comment on the guilty plea or the ongoing lawsuit Thursday, but said their thoughts and prayers are with the family during this time.

Sam Anello will be sentenced in Puerto Rico on December 10.

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