Cruise line will pay $1 million to man's estate

Published: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Miami-based Royal Caribbean agreed Thursday to pay more than $1 million to the estate of a Connecticut man who vanished during his honeymoon cruise of the Mediterranean in 2005.

His widow accepted the deal, but his parents and sister dismissed it as a "sell-out."

George Allen Smith IV, 26, of Greenwich, disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas between Greece and Turkey after what appeared to be a late night of drinking. The FBI is investigating, but no one has been charged and no body was ever found.

In settling, the cruise line denied any wrongdoing. It said it wanted to "provide closure and move forward."

The agreement, which is subject to a judge's approval, was filed in Connecticut probate court, which declared Smith dead in 2005. Royal Caribbean will pay $950,000 to Smith's estate and reimburse his widow, Jennifer Hagel Smith, for legal costs up to $110,000.

Hagel Smith, who stands to get most of the money, said she will start a fund in memory of her husband with an initial donation of $25,000 that the cruise line will match.

Hagel Smith was found passed out on a floor far from the couple's cabin, the cruise line has said. She said that she has no recollection of what happened and that she passed an FBI polygraph test.

The case prompted congressional hearings and new legislation to tighten requirements for reporting when passengers disappear.

Hagel Smith said in a statement that the settlement gives her access to records kept by the cruise line.

including ship logs, security reports, door activity records, photographs, witness statements and correspondence with the FBI.

"My single goal continues to be to find answers regarding how George died," she said. "Reaching a settlement in this case in no way shuts down the investigation."

Hagel Smith's settlement has caused a rift with Smith's parents and sister.

Their attorney Brett Rivkind said the family considers the settlement inadequate and will probably challenge it in court. "They continue to take the position it was a sell-out," Rivkind said.

Smith's family has filed a lawsuit accusing Royal Caribbean of a cover-up.

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