Missing Honeymooner Cruise Ship Case Unresolved

June 9, 2009
Brilliance of the Seas

The Federal Bureau of Investigation yesterday released 2,200 pages of documentation on the disappearance of George Allen Smith IV, the Connecticut honeymooner who famously went overboard on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas in 2005 during a Mediterranean cruise. However, even with the release of these papers -- including depositions and probate court hearings, according to the Hartford Courant -- questions surrounding the ongoing investigation remain unanswered.

Chief among them: What really happened to Smith?

Smith disappeared somewhere between Greece and Turkey, following a night of heavy drinking. Smith's wife, Jennifer Hagel-Smith, wasn't in the cabin at the time. (She was found sleeping in a corridor.) Smith's body was never found, though blood reportedly was, on a canopy covering life boats below the newlyweds' cabin. Shows ranging from "A Current Affair" to "Larry King Live" to "Oprah" covered the case back in 2005, and -- not surprisingly -- the topic was discussed ad nauseum on Cruise Critic's message boards.

According to various news outlets, Smith's family believes he was murdered, while Hagel-Smith contends it could have been an accident. Within the released documents, Smith's widow is quoted as saying that the F.B.I. told her the evidence is inconclusive and that there is a 50 percent chance her husband was the victim of foul play.

In 2007, Royal Caribbean agreed to pay more than $1 million to Smith's estate in a settlement with his widow. Smith's family is challenging the settlement, according to the Associated Press, saying in an appeal that Hagel-Smith agreed to an inadequate settlement with the line to avoid embarrassment about her conduct onboard.

The Hartford Courant today published some excerpts from the documents:

"I'm looking to find out who murdered my son on that cruise ship." -- Maureen Smith, Smith's mother, to Hagel-Smith's lawyer

"[S]ome people get mad, some people get angry, and some people want their pound of flesh. Sometimes you want that at first, and then you can come out of that stage." -- Hagel-Smith, in response to Smith's family's plan to sue for negligence

"The idea that our lives were becoming open books was very disturbing to me. Literally anything and everything that people could think of or dream of was being put out there. And not only that, it is out there forever. I will be Googled for the rest of my life." -- Hagel-Smith on why she settled with Royal Caribbean

"[Jennifer] settled 'quickly' and 'cheaply' to avoid further scrutiny and embarrassment. Jennifer admitted that she is acutely aware of and sensitive to further critical scrutiny of her own shipboard conduct and behavior if the wrongful death litigation against Royal Caribbean proceeds." -- statement from lawyer for Maureen Smith's family

Royal Caribbean did not immediately respond to our request for comment. The F.B.I. does not comment on ongoing investigations.

--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor