Missing Titan sub likely destroyed in implosion, no survivors
Debris points to 'catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber,' says Coast Guard
An attempt to find and rescue the Titan submersible that vanished during a deep dive to the Titanic has ended with news that the craft likely imploded and its crew of five are dead. Debris from the sub was discovered in the search area earlier today.
US Coast Guard officials said they found the nose cone, front end bell of the pressure hull, and other bits from the craft that searchers believe is "consistent with a catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber."
According to USCG Rear Admiral John Mauger, a field of debris was found approximately 500 metres (1,600 feet) from the bow of the Titanic, where the submersible was headed before it lost contact with its control craft on Sunday. The USCG said it wasn't sure whether the sub imploded as or sometime after contact was lost, but said the debris field and location of the wreck are "consistent with implosion in the water column" where the craft last shared its position.
We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew
"We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost," OceanGate, the company operating the submersible, said in a statement just now, referring to those onboard.
"These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans. Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew," OceanGate added.
Rear Admiral Mauger said his role in the investigation is over, and that while some personnel and vessels would be returning to port, other ships will stay to map the debris field and continue investigating the incident. The remains were found by a remote-control vehicle.
That sinking feeling
Since the search for the sub began in earnest on Monday, questions have been raised about whether the Titan should have been in the water at all.
One of the first major concerns that came to light, aside from the questionable design of the Titan, was a 2018 wrongful termination lawsuit filed against OceanGate by its former director of marine operations David Lochridge.
Lochridge alleged in 2018 that he was fired after raising questions about the Titan's safety, specifically regarding safety of the craft's carbon fiber hull and its viewport, a window that Lochridge claimed was certified to just 1,300 metres (4,300 feet) - far less than the 4,000-metre (13,000-foot) depth of the wreck of the Titanic. The Titan was supposed to go down to the stricken luxury steamship to give tourists views of the ocean liner, which lies about 560 kilometres (350 miles) off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
Time running out for crew of missing Titanic tourist submarineEARLIER
As for the experimental hull of the craft, made of titanium as well as carbon fiber, Lochridge expressed concerns [PDF] that it wasn't being tested thoroughly enough to ensure there wasn't any microscopic damage that could cause a catastrophic incident – such as, say, an implosion, for example.
"Paying passengers would not be aware, and would not be informed, of this experimental design, the lack of non-destructive testing of the hull, or that hazardous flammable materials were being used within the submersible," Lochridge alleged. The lawsuit was settled out of court the same year it was filed.
OceanGate was also warned by trade organization the Marine Technology Society in 2018 of the group's "unanimous concern" that Titan's design and experimental approach to underwater exploration "could result in negative outcomes (from minor to catastrophic) that would have serious consequences for everyone in the industry."
The society made those observations in a letter to OceanGate, a copy [PDF] of which was obtained by the New York Times.
"Your marketing material advertises that the Titan design will meet or exceed … safety standards, yet it does not appear that OceanGate has the intention of following … class rules," the society added. "We recommend that at a minimum you institute a prototype testing program that is reviewed and witnessed," MTS urged.
It's unclear if such tests were ever performed. We should also say that the design concerns flagged up thus far may not relate to the sub that eventually went down to the Titanic at the weekend and its subsequent fate.
OceanGate said the Titan had undergone several test dives, entered service in 2021, and completed ten dives in 2022. Passengers were typically charged about $250,000 a ride.
I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules
If the craft did implode, it would have happened instantaneously, killing the crew within a fraction of a second given the pressures involved. There was previously some small hope that the sub could be found and the passengers rescued before the onboard supplies of air ran out. Escaping the craft would have been a mission in itself: the thing was bolted shut from the outside.
On board was billionaire tycoon Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman; OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush; Titanic explorer Paul–Henry Nargeolet, who spent 20 years in the French Navy before his retirement; and record-breaking explorer Hamish Harding.
Rush was piloting the Titan for what turned out to be its final fateful journey. He spoke to CBS News correspondent David Pogue on the US broadcaster's Unsung Science podcast late last year, and at the time expressed disdain for safety regulations.
"You know, at some point, safety just is pure waste. I mean, if you just want to be safe, don't get out of bed. Don't get in your car. Don't do anything," Rush told Pogue. "At some point, you're going to take some risk, and it really is a risk/reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules." ®
It's reported the US Navy picked up the implosion days ago using a top-secret microphone system but kept quiet about it so as not to give away this special submarine-detecting capability.