Court Upholds Settlement In Missing Passenger Case

A probate judge has upheld a settlement in one of the most notorious cases of a cruise ship passenger going overboard, and one where homicide seems like a strong possibility.

The judge approved a $1.1 million settlement that Jennifer Hagel Smith negotiated with Royal Caribbean after her husband, George Smith IV, disappeared on their honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean, the Greenwich Time reports. Smith’s parents want to overturn the settlement so the cruise line can be sued for wrongful death. 

Clearly, something went very wrong on that cruise. Smith’s blood was found on the exterior of the ship after he disappeared. His body was never recovered.

The case renewed concern about safety on cruise ships, and questions about the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement in cases of on-board crime. The FBI says Smith’s disappearance is still being investigated.

Yet only a handful of cruise ship disappearances over the years appear to have involved a violent crime or even an accident. (Contrary to popular belief, it’s not easy to “fall off” a cruise ship.) Many cases appear to have involved some combination of heavy drinking and suicidal intent, although it doesn’t help clear things up that bodies are often not recovered.

Last month, just for instance, an Illinois man disappeared from a Carnival cruise. His wife believes he was robbed and thrown overboard. The FBI has said that it does not suspect foul play.

Of course, we don’t know what happened in that case. And even when there is no “foul play,” the cruise lines may bear some responsibility — especially if they serve alcohol to passengers who are already drunk. 


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