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Top 10 Myths Regarding Royal Caribbean's Handling Of The Disappearance Of George Smith
 
Miami - January 27, 2006 - George Smith, IV tragically disappeared from the Brilliance of the Seas sometime in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005, while the ship was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea on a 12-day cruise en route to Turkey. The reason for his disappearance is being thoroughly investigated by the FBI but is still unknown.

All of us at Royal Caribbean extend our deepest sympathies to Jennifer Hagel Smith and the entire Smith family. They have suffered an inconsolable loss, and it is totally understandable they want answers and some measure of closure regarding Mr. Smith's disappearance.

However, there has been a lot of inaccurate and unfair speculation about our company's response to the incident, and the time has come to set the record straight. Below you will find the Top 10 Myths regarding Royal Caribbean's handling of the disappearance of George Smith and the factual information that debunks these myths.

This is an evolving document that will change over time to address additional baseless allegations as they arise. Due to the growing number of myths, our list has now expanded beyond 10.

Should you be interested in additional and more detailed information regarding our actions in this situation, you may visit our website at www.royalcaribbean.com. Simply click on the "Our Company" link at the bottom of our homepage, and then click on "Press Center." There, you will be able to read an eight-page document entitled "Factual Chronology of George Smith's Disappearance."
 
Myth 1. Royal Caribbean engaged in a deliberate cover-up, which impeded the investigation. The company washed down the canopy in the morning, before the authorities even arrived and then painted over the blood.
  • This is false.
  • Promptly upon learning that there was a possible missing guest, the Captain ordered an immediate search of the ship and directed his port agent to contact Turkish police and U.S. authorities.
  • The Captain took immediate steps to preserve the scene, including the sealing of the area and stationing a guard outside the cabin.
  • Shortly thereafter, (3:19 a.m. Miami time) a Royal Caribbean representative in Miami notified the FBI directly of the possibility of a missing guest.
  • The Turkish police, in liaison with the FBI, conducted a complete forensic investigation onboard the ship, including photographs, fingerprints, blood samples and the collection of other evidence.
  • At approximately 2:45 p.m. on July 5, the Turkish police told the ship's staff that their forensic investigation was complete and that control of the cabin and canopy were being returned to the ship. They confirmed that there was no need to further preserve anything in the cabin or the canopy and that the ship could do what it wanted with those areas.
  • The Captain still did not release the cabin or the canopy for several hours. Later, he noticed that other guests were hanging far over their railings to see the canopy and take photographs. He then checked again with Turkish authorities to reconfirm that it would be OK to wash off the stain.
  • The captain again received that permission, and the canopy was washed with high-pressure hoses at 6:15 p.m. The canopy was never painted.

 
Myth 2. Royal Caribbean destroyed evidence and compromised the crime scene before the forensic investigation was complete.
  • This is false.
  • Within minutes of receiving the first report of a stain on the lifeboat canopy, the Captain ordered the canopy and the Smith's cabin sealed and a guard posted to preserve them for investigation.
  • Royal Caribbean promptly reported the possibility of a missing guest to the Turkish authorities, the FBI and the U.S. Consulate.
  • The Turkish police, in liaison with the FBI, conducted a complete forensic investigation onboard the ship, including photographs, fingerprints, blood samples and the collection of other evidence.
  • The FBI boarded the ship in Piraeus, Greece, on July 7 and conducted a further examination of the Smith's cabin.

 
Myth 3. Turkish authorities had no jurisdiction over the ship.
  • This is false.
  • The ship and its passengers were under the jurisdiction of Turkish authorities since they were in a Turkish port. This is no different than the jurisdiction U.S. authorities exercise over foreign ships when they are in U.S. ports.
  • It is the FBI's normal practice when such international incidents occur to defer to local police authorities, working in conjunction with the FBI, to conduct the initial investigation and turn over the results to the FBI.
  • The FBI confirmed this policy as recently as a Congressional hearing on December 13, 2005.

 
Myth 4. The crew ignored a blood trail and other signs of struggle in the cabin.
  • This is false.
  • Shortly after 4:30 a.m., Mrs. Hagel Smith was found sleeping elsewhere on the ship.
  • While ship personnel remained with Mrs. Smith, two security guards went to her cabin to see if anyone was there to assist in her return. They looked inside the cabin, found it empty and saw nothing amiss.
  • These crew members observed no blood or sign of a struggle in the cabin.
  • Mrs. Hagel Smith was taken back to her cabin by two security guards and a female supervisor. None of the three Royal Caribbean crew members observed any blood in the cabin or notice anything out of the ordinary in the cabin.
  • When she awoke the next morning, Mrs. Hagel Smith also did not notice anything out of the ordinary or notice any blood in the cabin.

 
Myth 5. The company ignored numerous reports of fighting and/or confrontation noise and violence in the room.
  • This is false.
  • Only one guest called the Guest Relations desk during the night about noise. He complained about party-like noises coming from the Smith cabin.
  • Security personnel went to the Smith cabin in response to that complaint, but when they arrived, there was no noise of any kind coming from the cabin. Therefore, there was no reason to suspect any issues related to violence involving the Smiths or their cabin.
  • Since there was no noise when security arrived, or any report or sign of violence or danger, security left believing all was well.
  • We had no justification for invading a guest cabin on the basis of one simple partying noise complaint.
  • One other guest reports mentioning noise to crew members who were assisting Mrs. Hagel Smith back to her cabin. That coincided with the crew members entering the cabin and seeing nothing amiss.
  • Only subsequent to Mr. Smith's July 5 disappearance did Royal Caribbean learn that a number of other guests also heard various noises apparently emanating from the Smith cabin during the early morning hours. Unfortunately, none of them were reported at the time.

 
Myth 6. Jennifer Hagel Smith was kicked off the ship.
  • This is false.
  • As the day continued, Mrs. Hagel Smith repeatedly said she wanted to be reunited with her family, and her initial plan was for her father to fly to Greece to meet her there.
  • Royal Caribbean was fully prepared to assist with these arrangements, and the Captain offered to have Mrs. Hagel Smith remain on the vessel until her father arrived. However, unbeknownst to the Captain, the Hagel family had separately arranged with the U.S. Consulate official and our port agent for Mrs. Hagel Smith to fly home on a Lufthansa flight.
  • After Mrs. Hagel Smith completed her questioning by the Turkish judge, the FBI agent and U.S. Consulate official told the Guest Relations Manager, Marie, that Mrs. Hagel Smith would be going home and that flight arrangements had been made for the following day.
  • The FBI agent provided Marie with the combination to the Smith's cabin safe so that its contents could be retrieved. Marie asked Mrs. Hagel Smith if it was OK with her to get the contents of the safe and to pack the Smith's belongs, which Mrs. Hagel Smith agreed to.
  • Mrs. Hagel Smith was escorted to her hotel, arranged by our port agent, in the company of the U.S. Consulate officer and the FBI agent.
  • The U.S. consulate officer stayed at the same hotel as Mrs. Hagel Smith and accompanied her to the airport the next day.
  • While the situation was confusing and misunderstandings were inevitable, suggestions that she was kicked off the ship in Turkey are false.

 
Myth 7. Jennifer Hagel Smith was left alone in Turkey without assistance and support.
  • This is false.
  • Royal Caribbean understood from the first moments of this tragedy that Mrs. Hagel Smith's situation was traumatic and that she needed to be treated sensitively.
  • Claims that she was abandoned, asked to leave the ship, or left alone in Turkey are utterly false.
  • From the moment she was located at the spa and taken to Guest Relations Manager's office, Mrs. Hagel Smith, as a matter of procedure, was provided with a companion, a female officer of the ship, who remained with her virtually the entire day.
  • During her questioning in the terminal by Turkish authorities, she had had two ship officers with her, including the Guest Relations Manager, Marie.
  • During her questioning in the police station by a Turkish (female) judge, she had an FBI agent and an official from the U.S. Consulate with her. Marie, the Royal Caribbean officer, also accompanied her to the police station but was asked by the FBI agent to leave the group during the judge's questioning.
  • Her flights, hotel and transportation were all arranged by our port agent.
  • Marie provided Mrs. Hagel Smith with support and comfort. She even lent her her own hairbrush, sweater and cosmetics.
  • The U.S. Consulate officer stayed at the same hotel as Mrs. Hagel Smith and accompanied her to the airport the next day.

 
Myth 8. The FBI agent who responded in Turkey on July 5, was on vacation and therefore was neither relevant to the investigation nor acting in his official capacity.
  • This is false.
  • Shortly after being alerted to the presence of a stain on the canopy, Royal Caribbean notified Turkish authorities, the U.S. Consulate and the FBI of possible missing persons.
  • The FBI maintains an office in Ankara, Turkey. The U.S. Consulate knew there was an FBI agent vacationing in Kusadasi, and that agent agreed to give up his vacation time because he could get to the scene more quickly than anyone from the FBI's office in Ankara.
  • The Consulate official and the FBI agent agreed that, together, they would respond to the incident in their official capacities. In fact, the agent participated in the questioning of Mrs. Hagel Smith with the Turkish judge. It was the FBI agent who provided Royal Caribbean's Guest Relations Manager, Marie Breheret, the combination to the safe in the Smith's cabin so Mrs. Hagel Smith could have her valuables when returning home.
  • The fact that the agent gave up his vacation to participate in the investigation demonstrates that the FBI treated this matter seriously from the beginning, not that the FBI agent was an irrelevancy.
  • To insinuate that the FBI agent who responded to the ship was in some way inferior; not acting in coordination with the U.S. Consulate; or not acting in his official capacity is inaccurate, misleading and insulting to the agent involved, all other FBI agents, and their agency.
  • This is an excellent example of how quickly the FBI is able to respond to incidents involving Americans throughout the world.

 
Myth 9. Cruise ships are unsafe.
  • This is false.
  • According to FBI statistics, the incident rate of violent crime in the United States is 465.5 per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • Last year the cruise industry carried over 10 million guests and employed over 120,000 crew members. On average, from 2000 to 2005, approximately 50 cruise ship crimes against U.S. citizens were reported to the FBI each year. This equates to approximately 1 crime per 200,000 cruise passengers last year. This does not factor in the large volume of crew members employed, which would further improve this statistic.
  • On any given day, Royal Caribbean averages a little less than 100,000 guests and crew members on its vessels. Even if one calculated the statistics based on this smaller number, we received 15 reports of such offenses last year - a rate well below the national average.
  • This statistic indicates that it is approximately 30 times safer on our cruise ships than the national average.
  • More than 7 million guests sailed on Royal Caribbean ships during the last two years. During that time period, the company had five man-overboard incidents, which include the George Smith incident
  • Of those five incidents, the one involving Mr. Smith is the only one where there was any suspicion of foul play.

 
Myth 10. "Before and after" photographs of the Smith's cabin, taken on July 5 and 7, respectively, show that Royal Caribbean tampered with evidence or interfered with the crime scene or investigations.
  • This is false.
  • Royal Caribbean had voluntarily given the photos and other information to the Smith's attorneys in good faith and requested that the information be kept "confidential so that nothing is done to compromise the FBI's investigation."
  • The two photos were a "before" photo, taken at approximately 9 a.m. on July 5, and an "after" photo taken at approximately 4 p.m. on July 7.
  • The "before" photo shows the Smith's cabin immediately after the ship's Captain ordered the cabin sealed and posted a guard.
  • The "after" photo followed three important events, all of which the company has disclosed previously:
    • July 5: Turkish authorities conducted and extensive forensic investigation.
    • July 5: Our Guest Relations Manager entered the Smith's cabin to pack their belongings. A U.S. Consulate official joined her in the cabin.
    • July 7: The FBI and a U.S. Consulate official boarded the ship and entered the Smith's cabin in Piraeus, Greece.
  • The difference between the two photos is not due to any tampering but to these three events, especially the forensic examination. Obviously, that examination, which included taking fingerprints, testing for blood and removing evidence, would be expected to disrupt the scene. All the "before" and "after" photos demonstrate is that the investigators were thorough.

 
Myth 11. Guests observed Royal Caribbean personnel cleaning the Smiths' stateroom in the days after Mr. Smith's disappearance.
  • This is not only false, but also irrelevant.
  • The forensic investigation by Turkish authorities was completed by approximately 2:30 p.m. on July 5, and Royal Caribbean was given permission to clean the cabin at that time - however, the cabin was not cleaned that day or in the days immediately following.
  • Brilliance of the Seas is a large vessel, and unfortunately, several guests have provided well-intended but erroneous observations about the Smiths' cabin being cleaned. In one case, guests are quoted as saying they were four cabins away from the Smiths' cabin, when, in fact, they were five cabins away.
  • The Smiths' cabin was kept sealed from early on July 5 until July 11 with three exceptions - the ship's security and Turkish investigators (as part of the investigation), Marie and the U.S. Consular official (to pack the Smiths' belongings), and the FBI, U.S. Consular official and Royal Caribbean representatives (on July 7 to inspect the cabin).
  • Photographs were taken of the Smiths' cabin in the afternoon of July 7, after an FBI agent and a U.S. Consular official inspected the cabin. Those photos clearly do not show a room vacuumed or cleaned, further supporting the fact that the cabin had not been cleaned on or before that date.

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