The CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, one of five crew members onboard the company’s missing submersible Titan, was sued for fraud by a Florida couple who claimed their planned deep-sea voyage to the Titanic was repeatedly cancelled and attempts to secure a refund were ignored.
Marc and Sharon Hagle filed a lawsuit in Orange County in February that accused CEO Stockton Rush of defrauding them of $210,258 which they paid to secure two berths on a 2018 trip to the famed North Atlantic shipwreck.
The Hagles allege that they signed a contract and paid deposits in November 2016 to become one of the first of OceanGate’s paying customers soon after the Titanic expeditions were first publicised.
Explaining his motivation in an interview with Reuters in 2017, Mr Hagle said: “One of our personal goals in life is to not be sitting around in a rocking chair when we are 100 years old saying, ‘I wish I had done that.’”
In mid-2017, the Hagles became suspicious that the submersible vessel, then known as the Cyclops 2, was not going to be ready by the planned departure date, according to the lawsuit.
The court filing states that the Hagles wanted to pull out of the expedition, and requested a refund of their $20,000 deposits.
They claim that Mr Rush visited them at their Florida home in September 2017 to convince them the trip would be going ahead as planned.
Mr Rush described “what could be expected during the adventure”, they claimed.
He allegedly said passengers would be free to move around inside the submersible and take turns at the viewing portal.
“Rush knew that if Plaintiffs requested a refund of their Deposit and withdrew from the Expedition others may follow,” the lawsuit states.
The Cyclops 2 was undertaking deep dive testing in the Bahamas at the time, and the Hagles allege they were invited to join Mr Rush on an excursion.
The Hagles further stated that Mr Rush made “false representations” that the vessel would be ready to dive to the Titanic by June 2018, and convinced them to sign a second contract pay the full $105,129 per-person fee.
The promised trip to the Titanic wreck in 2018 was later cancelled as OceanGate had not had sufficient time to certify the Titan to travel to the 4,000m depth, the Hagles said.
A subsequent trip in 2019 was also cancelled after a support vessel pulled out. Then in late 2019, the rescheduled 2020 expedition was abruptly cancelled, the Hagles claim.
The couple said their repeated efforts to get a refund were denied, and they were later told that if they refused to go on the 2021 expedition they would lose their money.
The case has not had any activity since it was filed in February.
An OceanGate Expeditions spokesperson told The Independent they had no comment about the lawsuit.
When reached for comment by the Daily Beast, Mr Hagle said: “My thoughts go out to the owners of OceanGate, the people that are on the submersible, both the crew and the guests. And we’re hoping for a miracle and that everybody comes home safely.
“I think the pleadings speak for themselves.”
Mr Rush, British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding, French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman Dawood, are missing aboard the Titan, which lost contact with a support vessel on Sunday morning.
An extensive search and rescue effort has so far failed to find any sign of the submersible vessel.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies