OceanGate Titan sub: Key update on submersible investigation ahead of anniversary of tragedy that killed five

Five men lost their lives in the submersible’s ‘catastrophic implosion’

Emma Guinness
Friday 24 May 2024 16:26 BST
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Missing Titanic submarine: What happened to the Titan tourist submersible?

The US Coast Guard has issued an update on the investigation into the Titan submersible disaster almost a year on from the tragedy that claimed five lives.

On 18 June 2023, the OceanGate Titan sub lost contact with its ship crew nearly two hours into its expedition to the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean.

An gripping search-and-rescue mission for the vessel, which was just 6.7 metres long, was quickly underway in a bid to rescue the trapped crew before the vessel’s 96-hour oxygen supply ran out.

Throughout, there had been some hope that the five men onboard – Hamish Harding, Stockton Rush, Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet – were alive after rescue crews reported hearing intermittent banging noises.

But shortly after the timer on the sub’s oxygen supply would have run out, debris from the wreck were found and it emerged that the sub had imploded, killing all onboard.

The remains of the sub were discovered just 500 metres from the bow of the Titanic, which famously sank in April 1912, killing an estimated 1,500 people.

The Coast Guard confirmed that it had recovered “presumed human remains” from the site on 28 June.

The US Coast Guard has issued an update into the Titan submersible investigation
The US Coast Guard has issued an update into the Titan submersible investigation (OceanGate Expeditions)

Now, the Coast Guard has revealed that this investigation is in its “fact-finding” stage almost a year on from the tragedy.

A spokesperson for the Coast Guard told The Independent: “The Titan Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) remains in the fact-finding phase of the investigation and is collecting all relevant evidence and information.

“A projected completion date is not available.

“The latter part of the fact-finding phase will include a public hearing, and the MBI will provide at least 60 days’ notice ahead of the public hearing.”

Tickets to the wreck of the Titanic were sold for $250,000
Tickets to the wreck of the Titanic were sold for $250,000 (OceanGate Expeditions)

Shortly after the disaster, the privately owned company which organised the expedition at a cost of $250,000 per passenger, OceanGate, ceased operation, pending the ongoing investigation.

The last official update came from the US Coast Guard in November 2023, when it was announced that a review of the evidence from the disaster was conducted on 8 November.

The remains of the submersible were discovered metres from the Titanic’s bow
The remains of the submersible were discovered metres from the Titanic’s bow (1912 AP)

This came following an update in October when it was announced that the remaining debris had been “removed and transferred” from the ocean floor on 4 October.

The Coast Guard said: “The recovered evidence was successfully transferred to a US port for cataloguing and analysis.

“Additional presumed human remains were carefully recovered from within Titan’s debris and transported for analysis by US medical professionals.

“The MBI is coordinating with NTSB and other international investigative agencies to schedule a joint evidence review of recovered Titan debris.

“The MBI will continue evidence analysis and witness interviews ahead of a public hearing regarding this tragedy.”

The five crew members confirmed to have died are, clockwise from top left, Hamish Harding, Stockton Rush, Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet
The five crew members confirmed to have died are, clockwise from top left, Hamish Harding, Stockton Rush, Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet (Dirty Dozen Productions/OceanGate/AFP/Getty)

It is believed that the “catastrophic implosion” which destroyed the Titan took place shortly after it lost contact with the surface.

A US Defense official told The Wall Street Journal that the implosion was detected on the US Navy’s secret underwater microphones. A claim that was also reported by the Associated Press.

“The U.S. Navy conducted an analysis of acoustic data and detected an anomaly consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost,” a senior official told The Wall Street Journal.

“While not definitive, this information was immediately shared with the Incident Commander to assist with the ongoing search and rescue mission.”

Following the disaster, questions were raised about the safety of extreme tourism and the ethics of commercialising the Titanic wreckage.

It is speculated that the submersible imploded as a result of a failure or weakness in its design.

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