Transcript: New Details in the Search for George Smith

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," January 5, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Why was a missing honeymooner's wife taken back to her cabin in a wheelchair at 4:30 in the morning? And where was her new husband when she arrived? Newlyweds George and Jennifer Smith were on a honeymoon cruise last summer when he vanished. In the hours before the crew realized he was gone, there were complaints of loud noises coming from his cabin, and his new wife was found passed out in a hallway.

Joining us live from Miami with the new details is Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of operations, Captain Bill Wright. Welcome, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, in looking at this sort of whole timeline, which I want to go through with you in terms of what the cruise line knows and doesn't know about that day, the first question I have is, were there surveillance cameras in the halls outside the cabin?

WRIGHT: Well, Greta, we have numerous surveillance cameras throughout the vessel. The specific location of the surveillance cameras is something that we prefer not to comment on. It has to do with the overall security profile of the ship. But there are security cameras, closed-circuit television cameras on board, and I can further add that we have released 97 tapes to the FBI.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I take it by your answer that, certainly, if someone had gone to the cabin to commit a homicide, for instance, the person would have had to have passed at least one security camera. Have you actually gone through those 97 surveillance videos to see whether or not George Smith was on any of those the morning he disappeared?

WRIGHT: No, the FBI requested that we pass on those videotapes to them as soon as possible, and that's precisely what we did.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So we don't know for sure if George Smith is on any videos, other than that we know there are videos, and now the FBI has those videos.

WRIGHT: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the loop on the videos? How often do they loop around?

WRIGHT: I'm not specific with that exact system that was on the Brilliance of the Seas. It's a continuous looping and from a variety of cameras — but the actual looping frequency, I don't know specifically that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it an infrequently as every six hours, so at least we would expect that we would catch any sort of sinister activity in the cabin halls on surveillance cameras?

WRIGHT: It's a standard surveillance closed-circuit television system, and my assumption would be that the looping frequency is appropriate for adequate surveillance.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So in addition to actually having surveillance tapes, sir, do you actually have sort of a command center where people sit and watch cameras to see what's going on in the hallways, outside the casino, all over the ship at various times?

WRIGHT: No, we do not.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the only thing that we have to rely on are the tapes. We don't have anyone who actually sat and monitored cameras.

WRIGHT: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, you had something called a "sea-pass" on that ship, is that right?

WRIGHT: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: Explain to the viewers what the sea-pass is.

WRIGHT: Well, the sea-pass is a boarding access control system for the ship. All guests are issued a card, very similar to a credit card, which contains a variety of information. It also serves as the key to their stateroom. When they board the ship, when they present their documents upon boarding at the beginning of cruise, we actually take a photograph of them, and that photograph is electronically embedded onto that card. When they board the ship and when they exit the ship, they are required to put the card into a slot, and it's registered on our computer system, whether they are actually on the vessel or have left the vessel.

It gives us a very accurate record of who's on the ship, who's off, and precisely at what times they came and went.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Assuming that George Smith would have used his own card and everything, there's no record that he got off your ship that way.

WRIGHT: That's correct. That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, at about 4:05 a.m. the morning he disappeared, there was a report of some noise. What was the report?

WRIGHT: The report was a noise complaint from the adjacent cabin to George Smith's. It was from that guest that there was a loud party going on. I think in his words, he described it as a drinking party, a lot of noise and commotion, nothing out of the ordinary, other than just than just a loud party, and he requested to get some help in calming that down.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So security then responded very quickly, Caribbean security, to the cabin room. They knocked on the door. There was no noise. By this time, it was over, shortly after 4:05, is that right?

WRIGHT: That's correct. It also should be said that the guest in the cabin at the time that he made noise complaint call also pounded on the bulkhead.


WRIGHT: And to his own statement, as soon as he did that, it got very quiet. And when our officers arrived at the scene, they did not knock on the cabin door because there was no noise. And there was no indication of anything amiss. So they simply identified that the noise was over...

VAN SUSTEREN: And everything was fine.

WRIGHT: Everything was quiet and as it should be, and they left the area.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. At 4:30 a.m., something very — at least, I characterize as unusual is — at another part of the ship, found sleeping in the hall is George Smith's wife, is that right?

WRIGHT: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I take from the description — because security was called, as well as a woman attendant — my guess from the description is that she was drunk because they had to put her in a wheelchair to bring her back to her cabin.

WRIGHT: Well, actually, Greta, the wheelchair is standard procedure for us. The statements from our crew who were on scene, the staff who were there, is that she was asleep. The medical facility was involved in this, as well. When they attempted to awake her, which was immediately, she awoke. And she said right away, I'm OK. So the impression of the staff and the crew who were on site with her was that she had been, in fact, sleeping.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Any suggestion she was drunk? Because, I mean, typically, I take it, if you pay a lot of money for a cruise, you know, you pay for a cabin and not the hall, that you don't just fall asleep in the hall.

WRIGHT: Again, the staff that was on the scene, they reported that she was conversant. She awoke immediately. They did not have any problems getting her to wake up, and the fact that we put her in a wheelchair is a standard procedure for us when we escort somebody back to their cabin.

In the meantime, we had also sent security staff to her cabin to find out if there was anybody there that perhaps could assist her in coming back themselves. When they went to the cabin, they knocked on the door. There was no answer. They entered the cabin. The cabin was empty.

VAN SUSTEREN: She was then taken by wheelchair. When they went back to her cabin, the security people, they put her on a bed. So they actually went inside her cabin, right?

WRIGHT: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, did they see anything, any blood or anything funny inside the cabin at that time?

WRIGHT: Absolutely nothing.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So the next time that anything even sort of was brought to the attention of cruise line was in the morning, when some blood was spotted on the canopy.

WRIGHT: That's correct. Around 8:30 in the morning, which was approximately two hours after the ship had docked, a guest reported that they saw something on this white canopy, that actually is a steel canopy that covers the lifeboats — that they saw something that appeared to be blood.

VAN SUSTEREN: At that point, the cruise line had no idea whose blood that was, so the cruise line then dispatched people to look in the cabins around that area to see if anyone was missing.

WRIGHT: That's correct. The first thing we did was actually go and look at the stain that was on the canopy. The captain, in fact, went and looked himself. And the appearance of it was such that it quite possibly could have been blood. At that point, if it was blood, it was fairly obvious to the captain that perhaps somebody had fallen from one of the three levels, three decks of balconies that are above that immediate area of the canopy. And he then eventually started going through — or immediately, I should say, started going through the three cabins that were immediately above and the three cabins on either side.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Three people were missing from the cabins, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and a third person.

WRIGHT: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has that third person been investigated to see if there's any sort of friendship or relationship to the Smiths?

WRIGHT: The third person was an acquaintance, evidently, of the Smiths, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.

WRIGHT: But that person was identified as being on board later.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's that person's name?

WRIGHT: I'm not at liberty to disclose that.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So you went looking for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. You found Mrs. Smith in the spa.

WRIGHT: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: About what time did you find her?

WRIGHT: We found her approximately 10:00 o'clock. There were three individuals — three guests — that we could not account for, and two of those were Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We were doing multiple pages throughout the vessel, and the ship's spa attendants actually responded back and said, Well, we believe that we have Jennifer Hagel-Smith in the spa, having a treatment.

The ship's staff captain immediately went down there, and in fact, found out that that's where she was.

VAN SUSTEREN: About what time did you say that you found her?

WRIGHT: Approximately 10:00 o'clock.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, at 9:15, so we can explain this timeline, back it up about 45 minutes, Royal Caribbean had already notified the Turkish authorities, since you were in a Turkish port, that someone was missing...

WRIGHT: We had notified the Turkish authorities and the American embassy at approximately 9:45 that we had three persons that were missing and that we had this possible bloodstain on the canopy under the cabins.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did any people get off the ship at the Turkish port and not re-board? Was that an end point for the trip for anyone?

WRIGHT: Not to my knowledge, no.

VAN SUSTEREN: So that when the ship eventually did set sail, everybody who was on the ship the night before, minus George Smith, was presumably on that ship.

WRIGHT: And Jennifer Hagel-Smith, who requested to leave the vessel on her own.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The Turkish authorities came on. Was the room secured?

WRIGHT: The room was secured immediately. When the captain investigated himself the stain on the canopy — again, the suspicion was that this possibly could be blood. He immediately secured that area. Then the focus went on looking into cabins that were directly above the stain. And when we found out that this was one of the cabins, we had two of the three missing people — the third person did not have a cabin in that area — immediately, that cabin was secured. And it remain secured for the next six days.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I only have about a minute left. Now, George Smith was gambling with some people and drinking with some people in the casino. Have all those people been thoroughly questioned about that night?

WRIGHT: There was a thorough investigation conducted. The Turkish police, who, again, we notified immediately at 9:15 — I also think it's important to mention that an hour after that, we notified, as a reason — as a matter of protocol, the FBI from our Miami office. And we remained in contact with the FBI throughout the day, and in fact, up until this day.

And it turns out that there was an FBI agent on vacation in Kusadasi, and that individual, together with the U.S. consul, actually participated with the Turkish police, who conducted a full forensic investigation on board. They took fingerprints. They took evidence. They took photographs. And all of that evidence has been turned over to the FBI.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Was there blood found any place else — we only have 20 seconds left — other than on the canopy?

WRIGHT: I believe there were some small dots of blood that were also found in the cabin.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Captain, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us.

WRIGHT: It's a pleasure. Thank you, Greta.

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