Live updates | Titan’s catastrophic implosion likely killed 5 occupants instantly, experts say
Jun 21, 2023, 10:44 AM | Updated: Jun 23, 2023, 3:30 pm
Follow along for live updates on the five people aboard during a voyage down to the Titanic shipwreck.
TITAN’S CATASTROPIC IMPLOSION LIKELY KILLED 5 OCCUPANTS INSTANTLY
Experts say the Titan submersible suffered a deep North Atlantic.
Maritime researchers called an implosion the worst possible outcome of all the scenarios envisioned during the desperate round-the-clock search to find the missing vessel.
Experts had cautioned that under intense pressure at extreme depths the Titan’s hull could implode, which would result in instant death for anyone aboard the vessel.
The 22-foot long (6.7-meter long), 23,000-pound (10,432-kilogram) Titan’s larger internal volume — while still cramped with a maximum of five seated people — meant it was subjected to more external pressure.
The water pressure at 12,500 feet (3,800 meters) below the surface at the site of the Titanic wreck is roughly 400 atmospheres or 6,000 pounds per square inch.
What to know:
— What caused the Titan to implode? Right now, it’s not even clear who will lead the investigation
— How the unconventional design of the Titan sub may have destined it for disaster
— A Titanic expert, an adventurer, a CEO, and a father and son were killed in Titan’s implosion
— Tourist sub’s implosion draws attention to murky regulations of deep-sea expeditions
— ‘Titanic’ director James Cameron says the search for the missing sub became a ‘nightmarish charade’
— How much did Titan submersible search cost? US Coast Guard’s bill alone will be in the millions
— The latest on the Titan submersible tragedy and what’s next in the recovery efforts
TITAN PASSENGERS LIKELY SIGNED WAIVERS TO ACKNOWLEDGE RISK
The four passengers who died this week when the Titan imploded were most likely asked to sign liability waivers.
One of the waivers, signed by a person who planned to go on an OceanGate expedition, required passengers to acknowledge risks involved with the trip on the Titan vessel and any support vessels.
The waiver, which was reviewed by The Associated Press, said that passengers could experience physical injury, disability, emotional trauma and death while on board the Titan.
Passengers also waive the right to take action for “personal injury, property damage or any other loss” that they experience on the trip, the document states.
The form also makes it clear that the vessel is experimental and “constructed of materials that have not been widely used for manned submersibles.”
The waiver could play an outsized role as families of those who died consider their the disaster uncovers will determine much about the case, including what caused the vessel to implode.
CANADA’S TRANSPORTATION BOARD LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Friday it’s launching an investigation involving the loss of the Titan that will focus on the cargo vessel Polar Prince.
Polar Prince is a Canadian-flagged ship that served as mothership to the Titan submersible. The Transportation Safety Board will investigate the Polar Prince in its role as a support vessel and will conduct a safety investigation into the circumstances of the operation, the agency said.
The agency said a team of investigators is traveling to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to gather information and conduct interviews. It said it will coordinate with other agencies in the days ahead.
There were 17 crew members and 24 people on board the Polar Prince, the agency said.
TITAN’S UNCONVENTIONAL DESIGN SUBJECTED CRAFT TO MORE WATER PRESSURE
The unconventional design and its creator’s refusal to submit to safety checks that are standard in the industry.
The Titan, owned and operated by OceanGate Expeditions, first began taking people to the Titanic in 2021. It was touted for a design that included a carbon fiber composite hull and an elongated chamber for crew and passengers — a departure from more traditional spherical cabin areas and all-titanium construction.
Experts say the cabin where people sit in most submersibles is spherical because water pressure is exerted equally on all areas. By comparison, the Titan’s chamber was a larger, more elongated tube shape.
The 22-foot long (6.7-meter long), 23,000-pound (10,400-kilogram) Titan’s larger internal volume — while still cramped with a maximum of five seated people — meant it was subjected to more external pressure.
While OceanGate promoted the Titan’s carbon fiber and titanium construction as “lighter in weight and more efficient to mobilize than other deep diving submersible,” experts say carbon composites have limited life when subject to excessive loads or poor design which leads to stress concentrations.
ADVENTURERS DROP OCEANGATE FRAUD LAWSUIT AFTER TITAN TRAGEDY
A pair of adventurers who sued OceanGate for fraud said they have dropped their lawsuit against the company that owned the Titan submersible.
Sharon and Marc Hagle sued OceanGate after they put money down for a trip to the Titanic wreckage site and the voyage never happened. The couple said the trip was both rescheduled and canceled, and they were told they would not receive a refund.
The Hagles are adventurers who became the first married couple on a commercial space flight last year, according to Purdue University, Marc’s alma mater.
The couple said in a statement to The Associated Press on Friday that they have decided to drop their legal action in the wake of CEO Stockton Rush’s death, along with four passengers, and the loss of the Titan at sea.
“Money is a driving force in our economy, but honor, respect and dignity are more important to the human soul,” the statement read. “We wish the entire OceanGate family and the families of those aboard the Titan the very best as they grieve the loss of their loved ones.”
COST OF SEARCH FOR TITAN WILL EASILY STRETCH INTO MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
The cost of the search for the missing Titan submersible will easily stretch into the millions of dollars for the U.S. Coast Guard alone. The Canadian Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and other agencies and private entities also rushed to provide resources and expertise.
There’s no other comparable ocean search, especially with so many countries and even commercial enterprises being involved, said Norman Polmar, a naval historian, analyst and author based in Virginia.
The aircraft, alone, are expensive to operate.
The Pentagon has put the hourly cost at tens of thousands of dollars for turboprop P-3 Orion and jet-powered P-8 Poseidon sub hunters, along with C-130 Hercules, all utilized in the search.
Some agencies can seek reimbursements. But the U.S. Coast Guard is generally prohibited by federal law from collecting reimbursement pertaining to any search or rescue service, said Stephen Koerting, a U.S. attorney in Maine who specializes in maritime law.
The first priority in search and rescue is always saving a life, and search and rescue agencies budget for such expenses, said Mikki Hastings, president and CEO of the National Association for Search and Rescue.
Rescue agencies don’t want people in distress to be thinking about the cost of a helicopter or other resources when a life is in danger.
“Every person who is missing – they deserve to be found. That’s the mission regardless of who they are,” Hastings said.
TITAN’S IMPLOSION HIGHLIGHTS MURKY REGULATIONS FOR DEEP-SEA VOYAGES
The Titan’s voyage down into the North Atlantic highlights the murkily regulated waters of deep-sea exploration.
It’s a space on the high seas where laws and conventions can be sidestepped by risk-taking entrepreneurs and the wealthy tourists who help fund their dreams. At least for now.
Thursday’s announcement by the U.S. Coast Guard that the Titan had imploded near the Titanic shipwreck, killing all five people on board, has drawn attention to how these expeditions are regulated.
The Titan operated in international waters, far from the reach of many laws of the United States or other nations. It wasn’t registered as a U.S. vessel or with international agencies that regulate safety, nor was it classified by a maritime industry group that sets standards on matters such as hull construction.
Stockton Rush, the OceanGate Expeditions CEO and Titan pilot who was among the dead, had said he didn’t want to be bogged down by such standards.
Experts say wrongful death and negligence lawsuits are likely in the Titan case — and they could be successful. But legal actions will face various challenges, including waivers signed by the Titan passengers that warned of the myriad ways they could die.
CRITICS POINT TO LACK OF CERTIFICATION FOR TITAN SUBMERSIBLE
Bob Ballard, a member of the research team that found the Titanic wreck in 1985, called the lack of certification by outside experts “the smoking gun” in the case of the Titan submersible.
The U.S. Coast Guard announced Thursday that the Titan, a small craft headed to the wreck of the Titanic, suffered a catastrophic implosion, killing all five aboard.
“We’ve made thousands and thousands and thousands of dives with other countries as well to these depths and have never had an incident,” Ballard said Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “So this is the first time, and the smoking gun is that this is the first time by a submarine that wasn’t classed.”
Appearing on the same show, “ Titanic” director James Cameron called the lack of certification by an engineering entity or “classing bureau” “a critical failure.”
He described several potential problems with the Titan’s design, but said the weakest link was the carbon fiber composite hull.
“You don’t use composites for vessels that are seeing external pressure. They’re great for internal pressure vessels, like scuba tanks, for example, but they’re terrible for external pressure,” he said. “So this was trying to apply aviation thinking to a deep submergence engineering problem. And we all said this was a flawed idea.”
COAST GUARD SAYS FOCUS REMAINS ON SEARCH, OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION YET TO BE LAUNCHED
Still focused on the search, the U.S. Coast Guard said Friday that an official investigation has yet to be launched into the disappearance and implosion of the Titan submersible.
Coast Guard officials announced Thursday that the craft that was headed to the wreck of the Titanic suffered a catastrophic implosion, killing all five aboard.
On Friday morning, the Coast Guard said an official investigation had not yet been launched because the agencies involved were focused on the search and still determining who has the appropriate jurisdiction and authority to lead it. Possibilities include the U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian Coast Guard, other federal or international agencies, or a joint effort.
The Coast Guard also said it was too soon to say whether any policy changes would be made.