This weekend will mark 10 years since George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005.
Mr. Smith was on a honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, who we later represented on behalf of Mr. Smith’s estate against the cruise line over his disappearance.
I have written about this terrible tragedy many times, including writing a series of articles about some of the details about the case.
I have always thought that the case involved foul play, and that George Smith was tossed over-the-rails.
The case was mentioned routinely on television and cable news back in 2005-2006. We were interviewed on a regular basis. Royal Caribbean sent a slew of people to appear in the media like the former captain (whose opinions were ludicrous) as well as PR representatives, crisis communication experts and even the CEO of the cruise line. They tended to cast aspersions against Mr. Smith, or his bride, or both, or played dumb. They never ever produced videos in the cruise line’s possession.
What Royal Caribbean didn’t disclose to the media back then was that it had a video recording of some of the other passengers who were last with Mr. Smith in his cabin early on the morning in question. After Mr. Smith’s disappearance, the men were recorded mocking Mr. Smith. One of them then said: "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." This video was in the possession of the cruise line by the end of the cruise and, later, in the possession of the FBI which did not disclose it to any of the family members. It eventually became known to the Smith family only around 7 years after the incident.
The greatest mystery about this cruise line crime case is not what happened to George Smith; it’s why the FBI shut its investigation down and why the Department of Justice didn’t arrest those responsible long ago.
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CBS is airing an episode on 48 Hours tomorrow night about the case. A preview is below: