GREENWICH, Conn. -- Sailing on a cruise ship is akin to the chaotic days on the American frontier when gunmen ruled the range, a U.S. senator said as he called for improved passenger safety measures 10 years after the death of a Greenwich man who was lost at sea after falling from a cruise ship.
"It's literally the Wild West out there," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during a noontime press conference at Greenwich Town Hall.
He was joined by George Smith IV's parents, George III and Maureen, and his sister, Bree. George Smith IV vanished from a Royal Caribbean cruise in the Mediterranean on July 5, 2005, and his body was never found.
Blumenthal and colleague Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015 (CPPA), which mandates cruise ships install modern safety technology, and requires critical consumer protection measures for passengers who are victims of crime or require medical attention.
The CPPA would require all ships to install video capture and detection capability technology - what Blumenthal termed man overboard technology - so that falls can be promptly detected and better prevented. The bill also addresses the widely overlooked problem of little to no protection for passengers who are victims of fraud or crime, or require medical care while aboard.
Many cruise ships can have up to 10,000 passengers and crew - larger than many Connecticut communities - yet there is no law enforcement presence on the ships.
"There is no one on board with the training or responsibility to investigate effectively," Blumenthal said. "Americans are vulnerable and susceptible to the vagary of a ship's crew that may have no interest or knowledge or training in criminal investigation."
Evidence may be lost, tampered with or investigations compromised and obstructed, he said.
Smith's family maintain he was murdered and are upset that the FBI "shut down" the investigation in January.
"We are completely devastated by this news," Bree Smith said. "Why would the FBI suddenly shut down an investigation that had spanned nine and a half years, sent agents across the globe and cost the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars? Who stopped the FBI and U.S. attorneys from bringing to justice George's murderers and Royal Caribbean Cruises, the cruise line corporation that elaborately covered up this murder?"
The family said Smith had won as much as $15,000 in the ship's casino and called that the motive.
George Smith III said 20 people are lost overboard every year around the world.
"There has never been one arrest in the last 10 years," he said.
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