Cruise Ship Disappearances and Deaths Discussed in People.com
Reports of passengers going overboard on cruise ships, deaths and disappearances, have become much more prevalent in the past 10 to 15 years. I've been handling maritime cases for more than 30 years, and the last 10 to 15 years have brought to light many more deaths and disappearances than I had seen previously. The most recent case discussed involves a murder.
My office Rivkind & Margulies, P.A., represented the family of George Smith, who was on his honeymoon aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship when he went missing. His case is discussed in the article. It was believed he was the victim of foul play, but it was never proven. The FBI kept an active file for several years before finally closing it without ever solving what really happened to George Smith. There was evidence that there was some type of fighting in his cabin the night he went missing, and blood was found on the canopy below his balcony, showing that he had fallen off the balcony, struck the canopy and fell into the waters. His body was never recovered so there was no forensic evidence to develop. Without a body, it is very difficult to solve a mystery of a passenger disappearing. In addition, the onboard evidence got contaminated due to the cruise line’s failure to have a prompt and adequate investigation, and the FBI's involvement came too late to solve what happened.
Many experts criticized the cruise line in the George Smith case as having botched the investigation, and even suggested there had been an intentional cover-up of the incident which prevented proving what happened. I personally boarded the cruise ship with famous Dr. Henry Lee, who performed the forensic evaluation, albeit way too late to obtain meaningful evidence. He attempted to re-create the incident where George Smith fell from the balcony, and inspected the canopy below for any residue blood that might have still been present. However, the cruise ship company blocked our attempt to use a dummy model to simulate the incident, preventing the full and complete investigation Dr. Henry Lee really wanted to do. There were a few suspects who were focused on by the FBI, but there were never any arrests made in the disappearance of George Smith.
My firm has represented many family members whose loved ones have mysteriously disappeared or gone overboard and were never rescued on cruise ships. I have also appeared during Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security, including discussions about the George Smith case and other instances of passengers going overboard. As a result of congressional hearings, legislation was passed, which included requirements that the cruise ship companies implement available technology for detecting when a passenger goes overboard so that prompt search and rescue efforts can be implemented. Despite this legislation, the majority of cruise ships have resisted implementation of this available technology.
Rivkind & Margulies, P.A., continues to act as advocates for those harmed at sea, and Brett Rivkind has more than 30 years of experience handling maritime cases involving serious and catastrophic injury cases, and wrongful death cases.