Sea ViewsFrom President and COO, Adam Goldstein

Sea Views Blog with Adam Goldstein

The George Smith Case, Four Years Later

It has been four years since the tragic disappearance of George Smith from Brilliance of the Seas while on his honeymoon with Jennifer Hagel Smith. The case continues to unfold and in fact was in the news again the week of June 8th. Why? The probate court in Connecticut unsealed the records of the hearing that resulted in a judge’s ruling that the settlement between Royal Caribbean and the estate was fair and reasonable and in the best interests of all of the beneficiaries, including both Jennifer Hagel and the Smith family. The Smith family has appealed that ruling to a Connecticut Superior Court and is also challenging Jennifer’s right to continue as personal representative of the estate.

Normally I would not comment on this development, even to reiterate the following two variations on what we’ve been saying for four years. First, the released information once again demonstrates that we acted properly in assisting Jennifer Hagel and the Smith family in the aftermath of their tragic loss. Second, during the investigation of Mr. Smith’s disappearance, Royal Caribbean provided complete support, assistance and cooperation to the FBI, including the provision of all documents and materials that were requested. Moreover, during the original probate proceedings, Royal Caribbean released all of the relevant facts to the public regarding George Smith’s disappearance, with the exception of certain information the FBI asked the company not to disclose to protect its investigation. The newly released documents do not add anything new to what was previously known about this tragedy.

The proposed settlement has gone through an exhaustive legal review and analysis by a neutral and experienced judge and accordingly Royal Caribbean believes it is time for the settlement to be implemented as negotiated and for the healing process to replace the litigation process for Jennifer Hagel and the Smith family. I am frustrated that we have not been allowed to pay the money we agreed to pay two years ago and worse that the settlement is being eaten up by unnecessary legal fees.

Many readers know that Jennifer Hagel and I met, unintentionally, on the set of the Oprah Winfrey show in January, 2006. Despite my assumption that in her eyes I was akin to Darth Vader, we struck up a conversation on the set that led eventually to the settlement and to mutual respect. My opinion is that Jennifer’s handling of this endless and tortured litigation with its attendant unfavorable publicity has been admirable. Just as importantly, Royal Caribbean has considerably enhanced how we provide guest (and crew) care in both emergency and non-emergency situations throughout our fleet, in part due to the mature and professional way in which Jennifer has suggested possible improvements in our processes and procedures. In addition, she followed through on a commitment she expressed two years ago to devote herself to community service and now works full time raising funds to combat Parkinson’s disease.

The basic fact of this tragedy – the disappearance of George Smith – cannot change. But some good has already come from it. Hopefully more good and less controversy and litigation is forthcoming.

10 responses to:
“The George Smith Case, Four Years Later”

  1. Mandy

    I admire you for addressing this news story. I recall watching a documentary a while back about folks who had disappeared from cruise ships. These unfortunate incidents were invariably the result of reckless behavior or intentional suicide attempts at sea. I don’t understand why people fail to use common sense when perched 12-14 floors above sea level in the middle of the ocean. They wouldn’t over-indulge and then hang out the window of a flying plane. Does water somehow seem more safe? The gentleman who was just rescued after falling from a cruise ship indicated that he fell while climbing on the railing. He was very lucky. His carelessness could very easily have cost him his life.

  2. jACKIE b

    I hope this incident will reach others who feel they need to fool around on the railings or balconies while on board ship. In some way or another it affects not only the family(s) involved but also the crew who work very hard to make their vacation a memorable one. I hope Jennifer and her family can get pass this incident and begin to rebuild their lives.

  3. Debbie Robinson

    I am surprised that the cruise line industry does not combat the misconception that cruise ships are not safe and that people “fall off” cruise ships. We know it is 99.9% impossible to accidently fall off a cruise ship as we’ve cruised many times. However, the greater population does not understand that you cannot simply fall off a ship. I find it annoying when persons who have not cruised nor do not comprehend the physical barriers to falling off ships, comment on a cruiseline’s lack of safety measures and/or file lawsuits which invariably result in my cruise fares rising.

  4. Eileen

    My husband and I were on the Brilliance at the time of this tragic event. It was apparent to those of us on board that something serious had occurred. The Captain did an admirable job of keeping us informed to the extent he could, to avoid speculation and unnecessary rumors. It was also apparent that an extensive investigation ensued as we were personally contacted by the FBI despite the fact that we had neither seen nor met the Smith’s as passengers while on board. I also worked in a profession where I had close contact with the FBI and was aware of their considerable efforts applied to this investigation. I believe that Royal Caribbean handled a very difficult situation in the best possible manner.

  5. Harold Richards

    We have cruised with RCCL a number of times and with other cruise lines. On every cruise, the first thing before leaving harbor is the safety drill and instructions. I think that RCCL has done all that could be done to prevent and to follow up on this tragedy.

    I am a volunteer chaplain with our police department and have been on many sudden death incidents. They are not easy to handle and I commend RCCL for being open with this matter.

  6. Tanya Vaden

    I was on my first cruise last year and was one of those people that thought people were crazy to take a child on a cruise and was scared at first when I saw children boarding the ship but once on board and seeing that one has to climb over to fall I felt very safe. Matter of fact my husband and I planned our next cruise soon as we got home last year and we will be leaving August 9th on the Mariner with all our children who are young adults and also our 6yr old grandson. I am so sad for the families that have lost a loved one, but I do feel that you need to be smart, one doesn’t just fall overboard there seems to be something else that is cause for this to happen.I am counting down for our special vacation and can’t wait to share this amazing time on a cruise with my kids and grandson as this will be the first time for all of them!!

  7. Guylene A

    We have cruised several times with RCCL and have always felt safe on board. The railings are high enough so as to prevent anyone from accidently falling overboard. It is unfortunate what happened to Mr. Smith, but I feel it is of his own doing.

    Personally, I don’t think RCCL should have had to pay for anything.

  8. Gary

    It was NEVER explained WHY R.C.C.L. has to pay for ANYTHING associated with this accident in the first place and, for loss of personal behavior. What was R.C.C.L. liable for, to pay one million dollars?

  9. Chelsea

    We may never know what happened to George Allen Smith,but it is my hope he is danicing with the angels in heaven.
    God bless his family.

  10. Theresa

    I am not convinced RC didn’t try to sweep this over board. I watched the families and the father of one of the young men questioned explained how they announced the investigation and followed with SuN SET TONIGHT 8pm????? I have been cruising for years I get very upset when cruisers jump to protect the Ship and the company’s name. There have been rapes, theft, and fights on ships. People do get hurt. When I get on a ship I fully expect to come home unharmed.
    There are to many conflicting statements by crew and passengers for me to unequivocally state I believe the ship bares no responsibility. God bless the families involved in such a tragic situation. God Bless you all.

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