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 George SmithCruise Mystery 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.

What do you think of the Captain’s excuse that George Smith may have been smoking a cigar on the balcony and just lost his balance?

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

CBS is airing an episode on 48 Hours tomorrow night about the case. A preview is below:  

 

 

George Smith Cruise Ship DisappearanceIt has been eight years since George Smith disappeared from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 4, 2005.

The cruise line initially stated that it had no idea what happened. But in 2012 it was revealed that Royal Caribbean took possession of a video shortly after the incident which implicated several men who were last seen with Mr. Smith. The video shows one of the men saying "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."

The FBI took possession of the video back in 2005 and did not reveal the contents to any of the families.

Seeking justice on the high seas when crimes occur is often a difficult task. The FBI has a poor record prosecuting crimes on cruise ships. It often seems that the FBI is more concerned with not embarrassing the cruise lines than obtaining justice for victims of crimes and their families.

The George Smith case is a good example of justice denied. But the case is still "open" and has been transferred from the FBI’s office in Connecticut to the FBI office in New York. Say your prayers that there’s an arrest and prosecution.

You can read a series of articles about Mr. Smith’s disappearance here.

 

Photo Credit: CBS

Cruise Passenger George SmithSaturday night, CBS’s "’48 Hours" will air what is being described as "important new evidence" in the mysterious disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise. The episode is called "48 Hours: Murder at Sea?"

You may recall that George Smith from the Greenwich Connecticut area was enjoying his honeymoon with his newly-wed bride Jennifer Hagel when he disappeared from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005, leaving a blood-stained awning behind him. 

The cruise line quickly concluded that Mr. Smith was intoxicated and must have been sitting on a balcony railing and fell overboard, and it reported this self-serving opinion as its official report to the flag state. Royal Caribbean ignored the fact that four young men were last seen in the Smith’s cabin and that there were sounds of an argument and loud noises consistent with a struggle, followed by a resounding "thud" on the awning below.  

Gregory Rozenbeg - Cruise Disappearance of George SmithWe represented George’s wife, Jennifer, who instructed us to retain noted forensic scientist Henry Lee in the face of the cruise line’s lack of cooperation.

Last year, CBS reported that the FBI had possession of a videotape taken by the four men where they talk callously of George’s death. The video captures one of the men saying "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." Cruise passenger Greg Rosenberg reportedly flashes gang signs and says "Told ya I was gangsta." 

We have written prior articles about Gregory Rozenberg such as "Disappearance of George Smith Update: Do You Have Information About Gregory Rozenberg?"   Rozenberg’s mugshots are readily available online, including the one to the right taken last fall.

Royal Caribbean concealed this tape from us throughout our representation of Jennifer Hagel. The tape’s existence was revealed by the FBI last year to the lawyer for the Smith family. 

Its disgraceful that the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have not proceeded with a criminal case. Its been going on eight years since George’s disappearance. A prosecution is long overdue.

Read our other articles about the case:

Disappearance of George Smith – Trouble as the Cruise Ship Sails to Kusadasi

A Frantic Call Back to Connecticut

Media Frenzy Follows Case of "Missing Honeymooner"

Dr. Henry Lee Boards the Brilliance of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Blocks Dr. Henry Lee’s Dummy Experiment

The International Cruise Victims Organization Is Born!

Royal Caribbean Captain Says Its Just an Accident Involving a Bloody Nose

Larry King Live & the "Missing Groom Mystery" 

 

George Smith - Cruise Ship - Missing HoneymoonerOver seven years ago, newlywed cruise passenger George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas into the Aegean Sea. The cruise line quickly concluded that Mr. Smith probably sat on the railing of his balcony and fell overboard, but there is absolutely no proof of that.

What Royal Caribbean knew but did not reveal to the families of George Smith and his bride, Jennifer Hagel, was that it had seized a video camera from other men last seen with Mr. Smith. The day after Mr. Smith’s disappearance, these passengers were eating breakfast in the cruise ship’s dining room when they began filming each other. According to a CBS program this year, the men were recorded laughing about the situation and mocking Mr. Smith.

The camera then stops on one of the three men who said: "We gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."

Our firm represented Mr. Smith’s widow and we hired forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee back in 2005 to investigate the case. The cruise line never revealed this video to us, or to Dr. Lee, or to the public. Instead, it launched a scandalous media campaign to portray Mr. Smith as a drunk and his bride as unfaithful. 

This Friday, the Nancy Grace program is airing a special look back at this case entitled "What Nancy Grace Mystery - Disappearance of George Smith Happened to George Smith?" The program will take a look back on some of the developments in the case. This "mystery" is no mystery at all. Those involved should be prosecuted. 

We have written a series of articles about Mr. Smith’s case, including Disappearance of George Smith IV – Six Years Later. We discussed what happened on the cruise and how the cruise line and the media responded to Mr. Smith’s disappearance.  

I am not a fan of Nancy Grace. Her program lost focus on the cruise line’s cover-up and the incompetency of the FBI in investigating the crime, while unnecessarily pitting the Smith family against their daughter-in-law. But her program is one of the few that continues to cover Mr. Smith’s disappearance. I’ll be watching this Friday.

In the video below, MSNBC interviews the editor of the Greenwich Magazine which published an article this weekend about the death of George Smith.  We mentioned the new article, written by Timothy Dumas, last week in our blog: "New Information in the Unsolved Murder of Cruise Honeymooner George Smith."

You will recall that Mr. Smith disappeared off of the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in July 2005. Although the cruise line tried to shrug the event off as a drunken accident, suspicions pointed to four men last seen in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005.

The "new" clues include a video of the men on the cruise ship.  The men recorded themselves at some point on the cruise ship after George Smith’s disappearance and may have said something incriminating.

There is also mention that the criminal investigation may be transferred from the Connecticut FBI to the New York FBI where some of the men live.

The video below shows  a number of old photographs associated with the case including a press conference I held in Miami in January 2006 (second photo, below right).   Last summer I published a series of articles about the case: Disappearance of George Smith IV – Six Years Later

Update George Smith Cruise Ship Disappearance Here is the transcript of the interview:

New details have surfaced in the disappearance of George Smith who vanished from his honeymoon cruise in 2005. Greenwich magazine’s Cristin Marandino discusses the case with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts.

"There is some new information about to talk about in the case of a Connecticut man lost at sea on his honeymoon. it happened seven years ago. you’ll probably remember that George Smith went overboard while on his honeymoon in 2005. The FBI investigation into his death is still open.

Greenwich Magazine has exclusive details about new evidence that may lead to an arrest.  Explain to all of us — you said yourself this is a story with a lot of twists and turns.  What’s the new evidence that may lead to an arrest?

Well, good morning.  There is a bunch of new evidence going on here.  One of the probably biggest and most exciting pieces that really is going to hopefully help push this case forward is the existence of a videotape that is in the possession of the FBI. On that videotape there are certain individuals that make very self incriminating statements following the death of George Smith.

Cristin, when you talk about videotape, this is not surveillance video from the actual ship. This is something shot after the event itself?

No, that is correct.  This is a videotape that the gentlemen made of themselves. And in their room, sort of passing around a flip phone.

So lots of people remember this. This was a beautiful young couple on their honeymoon. This was such a horrific incident. there was, you know, correlations, though, or kind of scandalous questions brought up about what this couple was doing that night, how much both parties had been drinking, and things trying to make them look somehow as if he deserved this in some way, shape, or form.  The family has disputed that.  The wife has moved on. even gotten a settlement.  How is the family responding to this new information that you’re working on?

The family is obviously thrilled about this new information, and they have been working very carefully with a Greenwich based attorney, Mike Jones, who in large part has been responsible for helping to push this forward and making sure that this evidence does get into the right hands, which now it has. and, yeah, there’s been a lot of misconceptions, a lot of in inconsistency with this case.  And i think Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise Ship Crimethat’s what we tried to do and why we tried to get in the game at this point, put all of that stuff to rest, and really start talking about what did happen and helping to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And, you know, exonerate the people that should be exonerated and put a little bit of a light on people who maybe should be looked at more closely.

When you talk about the family, explain the relationship between George Smith ‘s parents and his wife.

At this point, I think everybody’s sort of moved on. I think it’s, you know, as you said, Jennifer has moved on.  She is also living in Connecticut. I don’t — you know, i think they are just living their own lives.

if you were to guess, hazard a guess as to when we may hear of an arrest or arrests are made, what timetable would you suggest?

I really at this point don’t know.  And the people that i have spoken with, the hope is that because of this tape, and because of the fact that they are trying to get the case transferred from the Connecticut FBI to the New York FBI, which is a good sign on a lot of levels.  One, it shows that two of the targets that they are looking at do indeed live in New York. So it shows they are trying to push it forward in that way.  And that this tape is out there, and the information is out there that this tape exists. so hopefully, you know, i would say hopefully soon.

It’s certainly a case that gripped the attention of the American people. And i can imagine for the Smith family, it will be nice if they can find some forward motion and see justice in all of this. But we’ll continue to watch. Cristin, thank you for your coverage this morning." 

Watch the video below. If you don’t subscribe to Greenwich Magazine, read the first part of the article "Mystery at Sea" here.

  

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

 

Greenwich Magazine - Mystery at Seas - Murder of George Smith  A publishing company in Connecticut issued a press release today indicating that there is additional evidence to support the conclusion that George Smith was murdered during his honeymoon cruise in July of 2005. 

Greenwich Magazine indicates that its June edition will contain "new information released for the first time" which will provide additional proof that "could lead to the criminal indictment of suspects in one of the biggest unsolved murder cases in Greenwich, Connecticut history." 

The press release also mentions an "incriminating videotape." 

The story is called Mystery at Sea, and was investigated and written by Timothy Dumas.  Mr. Dumas previously authored the book Greentown, Murder and Mystery in Greenwich, America’s Wealthiest Community, which chronicles the murder of Martha Moxley.

The press release states that Mr. Dumas conducted extensive interviews and waded through depositions, cruise ship files, incident reports and witness statements. It appears that he has been working closely with the Connecticut lawyers representing Mr. Smith’s parents and sister.  

Last summer I published a series of articles about the case: Disappearance of George Smith IV – Six Years Later

I’m looking forward to reading the article at the end of this month.

Let’s hope that the new information leads to an arrest.

 

Credit:  Greenwich Magazine

Yesterday, Paul Motter’s popular online cruise community "Cruisemates" published an interesting article entitled "Mainstream Media Stupidity over Cruising."  The article is about the weird and sad story of an irate and perhaps drunk father throwing his 7 year old son overboard during a cruise around a harbor in Southern California on a sight-seeing boat.   

Cruisemates was upset that most of the stories carried headlines that the incident occurred aboard a "cruise ship" as opposed to a tour boat. 

I was initially sympathetic to Cruisemates’ plight.  Most media reports characterized the tour boat as a "cruise ship" when in fact the overboard incident occurred on a little 100 passenger tub cruising around the harbor.    

I was one of the first to blog and tweet about the bizarre story about the dad who pitched his crying 7 year old son over the rails and into the water (the child was rescued and is physically okay).  I was careful not to label it as a "cruise ship" incident.  And I also offered my perspective that I have never heard of a child ever being thrown from a cruise ship, or any other type ship, for that matter.  

But Cruisemates then went overboard in its defense of the cruise industry.  Passenger safety is a touchy issues for Cruisemates.  When the cruise lines were under siege in a series of U.S. Congressional hearings over the past many years inquiring into the disappearance of passengers on cruise ships, Cruisemates was on the front line defending the cruise industry in the media.  Every single overboard incident, according to Cruisemates, was a suicide or due to drunken recklessness.

Cruisemates’s unequivocal defense of the cruise industry has been unwavering, but has left it blind as a bat.  Cruisemates writes yesterday:

"There is absolutely NO documented crime where a person, dead or alive, was ever thrown off of a cruise ship, and I expect the news media to know and respect that fact."

The family of Karen W. Roston may tend to disagree with this statement. 

Ms. Roston was 26 years old when she went overboard on the last night of her honeymoon cruise Scott Roston - Karen Roston - Murder - Cruise Ship Overboardfrom the Sundancer cruise ship operated by Admiral Cruises of  Miami.  Her husband, Scott Roston (photo right), claimed that high winds blew her overboard as she ran on the jogging track on an upper deck.  But evidence introduced at his criminal trial indicated that the winds were just 4 – 5 mph.

An article in the LA Times explained that investigating FBI agents found Ms. Roston’s hair embedded in the rubberized jogging track along with a broken earring matching one she was wearing in a photograph taken at a shipboard dinner.  Mr. Roston was observed with scratches on his face after her disappearance.  A medical examiner concluded from an autopsy that Ms. Roston had been strangled.  Mr. Roston was tried for murder.  The prosecutor stated "she was strangled and then thrown overboard . . . " 

A jury convicted Mr. Roston of murder.  An appellate court affirmed his conviction in the case of United States v. Roston, 986 F.2d 1287 (9th Cir. 1992).  In affirming the murder conviction, the court noted: 

Here, there was evidence of a substantial struggle.  Parts of the decedent’s earrings and remnants of her hair were found on the deck 11 1/2 feet from the railing where she went overboard.  The injury to her forehead was consistent with the prosecution’s theory that her head had been smashed against the deck of the ship.  The hemorrhaging and bone warping in her neck indicated she had been strangled.  The cumulative effect of this evidence suggests that the decedent’s assailant, over the course of a fairly prolonged struggle, intended to kill her.  Moreover, the killing process continued beyond the struggle and strangling.  The decedent was not dead, but only unconscious when she was pushed or thrown into the ocean.    

Cruisemates’ claim that there is no documented crime where a person was thrown off of a cruise ship is false.  Its claim is disrespectful to the families of loved ones like Ms. Roston, and others thrown overboard from cruise ships.  

 

Photo credit:  AmericanTribune.org

Last year I published a series of articles about how cruise lines mishandle customer complaints and ruin their reputations in the process.

Part I of "And the Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem" series focused on the ways that Carnival and Royal Caribbean managed to botch customer problems and tarnish their images.  

Part II took a look at Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), which usually avoids the pitfalls of its larger competitors.  But in this case, NCL refused to refund the cruise fare of a passenger whose brother died and the funeral was on the same day as the cruise.  The guest notified NCL, asking for a credit on a future cruise.  NCL said no.  He asked for their cruise to be donated to charity (Make-A-Wish) so a child Cruise Wedding Disasterwith cancer could enjoy a once in a lifetime cruise.  NCL said no.

Then NCL re-sold the cabin to another couple. NCL got a double profit due to the death of a guest.  Ugh.

Most of the time the right thing for your corporate image is exactly the right thing to do for your customer.  But some cruise lines can’t seem to get it right, which brings us to part III of the series.

Last week the Connecticut Watchdog newspaper published an article "Stranded By Princess Cruise Line."  The story involves a newlywed couple from Connecticut, Diana Benne and Adam Gompper.  Both seems like hard working conscientious types.  Diana owns a popular hair salon and Adam is a police dispatcher. 

They purchased a Caribbean honeymoon cruise with Princess Cruises.  Things started out just fine with the couple enjoying the cruise and a stopover in San Juan (photo below).  But it seems like Princess Cruises didn’t inform them of a last minute itinerary change resulting in the Caribbean Princess cruise ship leaving St. Thomas early.  Even though the cruise ship was still tied to the dock, the captain would not let the couple aboard and abandoned them in St. Thomas.  It must be a sick feeling to stand on the dock with only the clothes on your back and watch your cruise ship heading out to sea.  What a way to start your marriage. 

When the couple tried to discuss a resolution to the problem, Princess blew them off.

When I read about problems like this, I think of how easy a happy resolution would be.  Refund the couple their money or give them a free cruise.  In return, you will have dedicated fans of Princess Cruises for the rest of their lives.  The proverbial "win-win" situation.  But ignore or engage in a petty quarrel with a honeymoon couple you left in a port outside of the continental U.S.?  You have earned an enemy for life.

Princess Cruises left the couple in St. Thomas of all places.  St. Thomas has one of the highest murder rates in the world.  You can read about the sad story of a 14 year old girl who was killed last year during a cruise stop-over in St. Thomas here.  

Princess Cruise Honeymoon DisasterPrincess Cruises spends tens of millions of dollars a year marketing itself as the ultimate in romantic cruise getaways.  It is known for its wedding packages and the famous "wedding cams" which you can watch online.  It is, after all, best known for the "Love Boat" television series.  

But when things go wrong on the Love Boat, issues like this are not resolved by the smiling faces in the marketing department.  They are shuffled down to the customer relations and risk management departments whose job is to deny, delay and defend.

Last week, I emailed Princess and asked for its side of the story.  I hoped that I would hear good news, like it decided to reimburse the honeymoon couple their cruise fare.  Then I could write a story with a happy ending.  Instead, I have heard nothing, which seems to be the problem in the first place.

July 16, 2011 Update:

Princess Cruises is receiving alot of bad press about situations like this.  Read: "Eunice Gayle Needed a Blood Transfusion, So Why Wouldn’t Princess Cruise Lines Let Her Off the Boat?

Here are a couple other articles about Princess Cruises’ approach to dealing with customer complaints:

Is a Nuclear Radiation Leak a Valid Basis to Cancel a Cruise? Not According to Princess Cruises.

British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship

 

Photo credit: Courtesy of Diana Beene

This past week marked six years since George Allen Smith IV disappeared from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.

Mr. Smith’s disappearance, and the manner in which Royal Caribbean chose to handle the incident, brought much needed attention to the cruise industry.  The events which followed Mr. Smith’s death led to five Congressional hearings into disappearances and crimes on cruise ships, culminating in the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in 2010.

Our firm represented Mr. Smith’s wife, Jennifer Hagel.  She hired us to obtain answers to what George Smith - Cruise Disappearance  happened to her husband and to seek compensation for his death.

Starting on Monday, I’ll publish an article each day about the facts and circumstances surrounding the ill fated cruise.

What happened on the night in question?  What did the cruise line do when Mr. Smith was discovered missing from the cruise ship once it had reached the port of Kusadasi Turkey the following morning?  Did Royal Caribbean voluntarily provide any information to the families of Mr. Smith and his bride Jennifer Hagel for the next several months?  What role did the media play in maintaining focus on the story?  What led the families to hire maritime lawyers?  How did the cruise line respond?

I’ll address these issues.  I’ll talk about hiring Dr. Henry Lee and bringing a team of forensic experts and detectives aboard the cruise ship to try and find answers.

How did the legal cases turn out?  What is the status of the FBI investigation today?

Most importantly, has there been justice for George Smith?

 

Articles in this series:

Trouble as the Cruise Ship Sails to Kusadasi

A Frantic Call Back to Connecticut

Media Frenzy Follows Case of "Missing Honeymooner" 

Dr. Henry Lee Boards the Brilliance of the Seas 

Royal Caribbean Blocks Dr. Henry Lee’s Dummy Experiment 

The International Cruise Victims Organization Is Born! 

Royal Caribbean Captain Says Its Just an Accident Involving a Bloody Nose 

Larry King Live & the "Missing Groom Mystery"

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