Five years ago yesterday, George Smith IV (below with his dad, George Smith III) disappeared from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship between Greece and Turkey.  This was a terrible, terrible night, which filled the public’s imagination with speculation about what happened, night after night on the cable news programs. 

Behind the news, families grieved with hearts filled with heartbreak and sorrow.   

George Smith - Royal Caribbean Cruise  Mr. Smith’s newly-wed bride, Jennifer Hagel, retained me to represent the interests of George’s estate against Royal Caribbean.  I was tasked with trying to find out what happened and to hold those responsible for George’s death accountable.  

I did the best I could, between a recalcitrant corporate-felon-of-a-cruise-line and families engulfed in grief.    

We reached an agreement that Royal Caribbean would pay $1,060,000 and reveal all of its investigation materials regarding George’s death.   

This was the best result which could be obtained.  There is no doubt abut this, especially after 5 years of retrospection.  

There existed many obstacles in this case. There is an international treaty which exists called the Athens Convention which, if found applicable, would limit the cruise liability’s liability to only around $70,000.  Not to mention the wicked "Death On The High Seas Act" which precludes damages other than financial compensation.  $1,060,000 and a disclosure of information by the cruise line was a great resolution, notwithstanding such a terrible loss of a young man’s life.

But the Smith family (photo below right) has fought at every turn, to appeal the  probate court decision in their own home town affirming the decision in Jennifer’s favor. 

Today, the news is filled  with the deaths of young men killed on the BP Deepwater Horizon rig, whose destroyed lives have all been calculated, by the calculus of wrongful death, to be less than $1,000,000 because of the soulless DOHSA law.  And these men were working when their lives were taken, with no hint that they were negligent for drinking or poor judgment or any fault of their own.  They were blown up by the malfeasance of the rig owner and operators.    

George Smith - Jennifer Hagel - Royal Caribbean CruiseYesterday, the Connecticut Post published a story about George’s disappearance and the issues left unresolved following his death. 

You can read about the dreams of young George taking over his father’s Cos Cob Liquor Store, juxtaposed with George’s alleged abuse of alcohol and misuse of prescription drugs during the ill fated cruise.

This is a sad story.  There is no winner. The families are estranged.  The cruise line, Royal Caribbean, cares not a whit.  Can the Smith family move on from this debacle? 

Over the last five years, my wife and I have celebrated 10 birthdays of our two sons who are now 13 and 15 years old.  My boys have grown from third and fifth grade kids to young men entering eighth and tenth grade, over the course of the Smith familiy’s nightmare. 

There is not a day that goes by that I forget how blessed I am to have my boys alive and healthy, and my family intact.



Photographs    Greenwich Time

  • mike

    who to contact regarding possible new information in the case?

  • mike

    looking for contact info for possible new information in the case?

  • Rick

    Very nice article, Jim, and I understand where your interests lie. But I cannot help but believe that the wife Jennifer knows exactly what happened to George, at the very least. She behaved suspiciously from the start and I saw where the Smiths were saying that she cut off all contact with them. No surprise there. Her family would be supportive and not ask questions. Naturally his parents would have a lot of questions that she would not want to answer. This case could have been easily solved, and as I continue to follow the story, I hope that one day it will be.

  • Marlene

    Just saw a movie I thought was based on this event, and went online to research more. I see it is only based on it, and very largely based it seems.
    I would like to hear any update; has the bride remarried? Did the grooms’ family case get to court?
    Please update, thank you.

  • Martin Dupuis

    The most important fact is that the suspect or suspects were on that boat…they need to put more pressure on certain key suspects and this will be resolved in 2012!

  • Claire Allen Barber

    To George and family was so saddened by this story from the begining.Iam so glad to hear something might be happening to find the Truth. I think you may remember me im Wee Allens daughter I remember seeing you when i was a child walking to sacred heart school……I remember visiting with your Grandparents Eva and George My Grandfather and your great Grandmother Emma were sister and Brother..Im the last Allen standing on my side.Take care I hope all works out to end your misery

  • margaret

    It’s sad but I think George was so drunk he fell off the balcony. I’ve heard these Caribbean cruises are one big party all night long. They were all drunk, and I don’t think they remember much about it…..I don’t think there is any conspiracy – he was drunk!