In December 2005, Congress convened its first hearing on the issue of the safety of U.S. passengers on foreign flagged cruise ships. The hearing came about primarily due to the efforts of several families who had lost loved ones from cruise ships on the high seas, under suspicious circumstances.
George Smith’s family was instrumental in bringing a great amount of much needed publicity to the issue of passenger "disappearances" and the shoddy manner in which cruise lines respond to such tragedies. George III and Maureen Smith and their daughter Bree Smith of Greenwich Connecticut contacted Congressman, Chris Shays (R-CT).
The Smith family joined forces with the father of a young woman who also "disappeared" from a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean’s sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises. Ken Carver, a former president of an insurance company in New York, lost his beloved daughter, 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver, who went missing under suspicious circumstances during a cruise to Alaska aboard the Mercury cruise ship.
The cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. The cruise line either gave her personal items away or put them in storage.
When Mr. Carver asked for an explanation, Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence. Mr. Carver didn’t go away. The story went public. The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story, revealing the hideous manner that this cruise line acted when people disappear at sea.
Mr. Carver’s situation is simply the worst conduct I have ever seen by a cruise line.
One of Mr. Carver’s daughters had been an intern of Congressman Shays when Mr. Carver had lived in Connecticut. Mr. Carver’s story was featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s show. The producer for the program, CNN’s David Fitzpatrick (a resident of Connecticut), recommended to Mr. Carver that he call on Congressman Shays and tell him about the way the cruise line treated his family.
As a result of the convergence of tragedies suffered by the families of George Smith and Merrian Carver, Congressman Shays convened a hearing to study the problem of passengers disappearing on cruise ships and the manner that the cruise industry treated the surviving the surviving family members. He opened the hearing by stating:
"The bottom line is we are suspicious, candidly, that there’s some huge problem in the cruise industry. We think that people are not aware of some of the challenges and some of the potential problems they encounter."
Mr. Carver attended the December 2005 hearing. I attended the hearing with my client Jennifer Hagel. Mr. Carver introduced himself to me at the hearing. He asked me if I was interested in supporting legislation making cruising safer for the public? I saw a conviction in Mr. Carver’s eyes six years ago. I realized that he was serious.
Mr. Carver realized that he could not fight the cruise industry alone. He thereafter created an organization called the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, effective January 1, 2006. As a former executive, Mr. Carver had the leadership and management skills to create a highly effective organization. Like the many other ICV members, Mr. Carver also had a passionate dedication to his daughter and a desire to protect other families from going through a similar nightmare.
Mr. Carver was responsible for convening four additional Congressional hearings, taking the ICV organization internationally, and organizing a team of victims who were responsible for the enactment of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.
George Smith, Merrian Carver and other victims may be gone from this lifetime, as we know it. But their legacies continue today.
The cruising public is safer for the efforts of their families.
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.