George Smith and Jennifer Hagel married in late June 2005 in Newport Rhode Island.  Their honeymoon was a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas, which departed from Barcelona to ports in Italy, Greece and Kusadasi Turkey.

George Smith - Jennifer Hagel - Cruise DisappearanceLittle did George and Jennifer know that these would be their final days together.

In the early morning hours of July 5, 2005, at around 4:30 AM, George Smith would go over the rail of the couple’s balcony, land on the metal awning over the lifeboats two floors below, and then fall into the waters in the Aegean Sea.  At the same time, his wife Jennifer Hagel was unconscious on the other side of the cruise ship in an alcove next to a stairwell adjacent to a passenger hallway some 400 feet away.    

The passengers on both sides of the Smith’s cabin had previously complained to security about noise coming from the Smith’s cabin.  On the fore side of the cabin, passenger Clete Hyman called the ship’s security and complained about loud noises and partying.  He would later tell television reporters that he heard sounds of an argument out on the balcony.  On the aft side of the cabin, passengers Mr. and Mrs. Lawyer complained to security personnel that they should enter the Smith’s cabin because they heard loud noises like furniture moving around, consistent with a struggle.

But no cruise line employees entered the cabin or called to determine what was happening. 

Cleaning personnel would later find Jennifer Hagel unconscious lying in the alcove.  Security personnel would then take her by wheelchair – not to the ship infirmary – but back to the cabin where the sounds of an argument and perhaps violence were heard.  The cruise line would make no effort to look for Mr. Smith, who was either lying on the metal awning over the lifeboats or fighting for his life in the water as the cruise ship sailed away.  Instead, the cruise line security personnel would put Ms. Hagel in bed, turn out the lights, and close the door.

Awning Over Life Boats - Brilliance of the SeasLater in the morning, after the Brilliance of the Seas had reached port in Turkey, 16 year old cruise passenger Emilie Rausch took a photograph of a large blood stain on the awning. 

Ms. Rausch would later tell CBS News, "when I took the picture, one of the things that made me think that this could have been blood – I saw a hand print running off the side of it."  

Young Ms. Rausch’s eerie recollection was 100% accurate. 

Six months later when Ms. Hagel hired our firm and we retained Dr. Henry Lee to inspect the cruise ship for evidence, he would find a bloody hand print in the gutter of the awning over the lifeboats which George Smith had apparently grabbed before he went overboard.


This article is part of a series of articles this week: Disappearance of George Smith IV – Six Years Later.

Do you have information which may solve this case?   Please let us hear from you.  

Photo credits:

Top:  Oprah Show

Bottom:  Emilie Rausch

  • This is just my opinion, but it seems like this was a murder. Look at how the awning curves, and it seems that point of impact (where the most blood is) is closer to the balconies than the side of the ship, so did someone throw him over and then either push or drag him to the edge, because it doesn’t really make sense that he would fall like 3 decks and then just roll over the hump of the awning into the ocean.

  • Gabs

    Mikey, the awning is on deck 6 of the ship. There is no access to it for the guests. It seems unlikely that the person that pushed him would go a few decks down and find a crew-only exit to the awning (which are usually inside one of the venues which would’ve been locked at that time of night). Specially considering that deck 6 is full of bars, has a couple of restaurants and the casino and theater. Public areas all over. I think that, after falling from deck 7-10 (whether he fell or was pushed is another issue) he just rolled from the awning and over the side of the ship. That’s what I think would’ve been the result of Dr. Lee’s experiment.

  • suszette

    I have cruised many times and been on the Brillance of the Seas. My opinion is he either fell over the balcony or someone pushed him over. Since it appears he was quite intoxicated prior to going over the balcony railing, I can only assume when he awoke on the awning and attempted to stand up, the wind took him overboard.