OceanGate’s Titan submersible completed less than 15 per cent of its deep dive to reach the Titanic wreckage located 12,500 feet below the ocean’s surface, according to a report.
Five people, including British billionaire Hamish Harding, died after the submersible imploded during the underwater expedition on 18 June.
The others on board were Oceangate chief executive Stockton Rush, French diving expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman.
The submersible previously reached the depth of the wreckage “as few as 13” of the 90 trips undertaken by the company, according to a passenger’s waiver seen by Insider.
The company had a success rate of 14 per cent and referred to the Titan “experimental” three times in the four-page liability waiver.
The submersible began taking people to the Titanic wreckage in 2021 and according to the company’s website, OceanGate completed more than 14 expeditions and 200 dives in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico using two submersibles.
It was touted for a roomier cylinder-shaped cabin made of a carbon-fiber – a departure from the sphere-shaped cabins made of titanium used by most submersibles.
However, there have been concerns over the construction and materials used in the sub that were not widely used for submersibles.
The 22-foot long, 10,432kg Titan’s larger internal volume – while still cramped with a maximum of five seated people – meant it was subjected to more external pressure. The sub’s 5-inch thick hull had also been subjected to repeated stress over the course of dozens of dives.
The submersible was not certified or approved by any regulatory bodies, the waiver disclosed. It also said that the submersible was “constructed of materials that have not been widely used for manned submersibles”.
In a 2018 video posted to the company’s YouTube channel, Rush can be heard describing the glue used to hold the carbon-fibre submersible’s structure together “like peanut butter,” saying it was “pretty simple” and thicker than Elmer’s glue. Rush admits that “if we mess it up, there’s not a lot of room for recovery”.
David Lochridge, the former director of OceanGate’s marine operations between 2015 and 2018, raised his concerns over the sub’s safety and was promptly fired as a result.
Mr Lochridge after being fired reportedly emailed his associate at the company Rob McCallum — who also left over safety concerns — to share his worry that Rush would get himself and others killed in a quest to satiate his “ego.”
While Mr Lochridge raised numerous concerns about the submersible during an inspection, his most serious concern was with the carbon-fibre material used to make the hull.
Brian Weed, a former passenger, told Insider that the sub had failed a test drive in 2021 because its thrusters stopped working and was stuck underwater for more than two hours. It eventually never made it further than 100 feet.
The Independent has reached out to OceanGate for a comment.
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