Old friend says Stockton Rush knew the Titanic sub was doomed in shocking TV interview

‘I think that Stockton was designing a mouse trap for billionaires,’ Rush’s former friend Karl Stanley said

Andrea Blanco
Thursday 20 July 2023 00:39 BST
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Stockton Rush appears to boast about ‘bending rules’ to construct Titanic tourist sub

A former friend of Stockton Rush has raised new stunning allegations against the late OceanGate CEO.

The Titan’s catastrophic implosion on 18 June remains under investigation by multiple maritime authorities, including the US Coast Guard as well as the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the French Marine Casualties Investigation Board.

The Coast Guard convened a Marine Board of Investigation last month and said it will hold a public hearing once it is determined what caused the submersible to malfunction while on a 12,000-foot-deep dive to the wreck of the Titanic.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, OceanGate and its CEO have come under fire for reportedly brushing off a litany of safety warnings from industry experts and passengers who went on dives in the Titan. Rush’s former friend Karl Stanley, who owns a diving expedition company in Honduras, has made fresh allegations on an episode of 60 Minutes Australia that aired over the weekend.

“I think that Stockton was designing a mouse trap for billionaires,” Mr Stanley said. “He definitely knew it was going to end like this. He quite literally and figuratively went out with the biggest bang in human history that you could go out with. Who was the last person to kill two billionaires, at once, and have them pay for the privilege?”

Rush, British billionaire Hamish Harding, renowned French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman were aboard the Titan when it imploded.

Before having a fallout with Rush, Mr Stanley went on a tour aboard the Titan off the coast of the Bahamas in 2019. In emails first unearthed by The New York Times of an exchange between the two deep-sea enthusiasts, Mr Stanley told Mr Rush that he had heard a large cracking sound during the dive.

“Every three to four minutes, there were loud gunshot-like noises,” Mr Stanley recalled in the 60 Minutes interview. “That’s a heck of a sound to hear when you’re that far under in the ocean in a craft that has only once been down that deep before.”

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was aboard the Titan when it imploded last month

Mr Stanley said he believes the sound was the Titan’s carbon-fibre hull breaking but when he raised those concerns to Rush, the OceanGate CEO reportedly dismissed them.

“I literally painted a picture of his wrecked sub at the bottom, and even that wasn’t enough,” Mr Stanley said. “There is no doubt in my mind that it was the carbon fibre tube that was the mechanical part that failed.”

Maritime authorities probing the implosion have not released what caused the tragedy.

Carbon fibre is an unusual material for a deep-sea submersible because it is weaker than the solid steel or titanium of which such vessels are usually made. While widely used in aircraft, it is commonly understood within the maritime industry that carbon fibre is not used in deep-sea diving.

“They were so proud of flaunting accepted norms ... You really need to know what you’re doing and I wasn’t convinced that that level of expertise was there,” Rob McCallum, who consulted for OceanGate in 2009 before leaving over concerns that Rush was rushing development of the vessel, also told 60 Minutes.

Mr McCallum, the founder of the deep-sea research and tour company EYOS Expeditions, told Rush in a 2018 email that he was “potentially placing yourself and your clients in a dangerous dynamic”.

This undated image provided by OceanGate Expeditions in June 2021 shows the company’s Titan submersible (OceanGate Expeditions)
Debris from the Titan submersible, recovered from the ocean floor near the wreck of the Titanic, is unloaded at a pier in St John’s in Newfoundland, Canada

“I implore you to take every care in your testing and sea trials and to be very, very conservative,” he wrote in the emails, obtained by the BBC. “As much as I appreciate entrepreneurship and innovation, you are potentially putting an entire industry at risk.”

In an eerie warning, Mr McCallum added: “In your race to [the] Titanic you are mirroring that famous catch cry: ‘She is unsinkable’”.

Mr McCallum said during his interview with 60 Minutes that he tried to do everything in his power to dissuade Rush, to no avail.

“They were diving in something that really was a ticking time bomb. I can’t say from a technical standpoint that I was surprised,” he said.

OceanGate, which was based in Everett, Washington, announced earlier this month that it suspended all operations. The company’s co-founder and Rush’s friend Guillermo Sohnlein denied Mr Stanley’s allegations, noting that he believes the media has portrayed a wrong image of Rush.

“I felt like what we were doing was right and was heading in the right direction,” Mr Sohnlein told 60 Minutes.

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