Investigation launched into implosion of Titan sub that left five dead as new mission to debris site under way

23 June 2023, 20:50 | Updated: 23 June 2023, 20:54

Five people died when the Titan submersible suffered a 'catastrophic implosion'
Five people died when the Titan submersible suffered a 'catastrophic implosion'. Picture: Alamy/Social media/Handout

By Emma Soteriou

An investigation has been launched into the 'catastrophic implosion' of the Titanic tourist sub that left five dead.

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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said it is launching an investigation into the fatal incident and a team of investigators is now travelling to Newfoundland to gather information and conduct interviews.

A short statement read: "In accordance with the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act and international agreements, the TSB, as the investigation authority of the flag state of the support vessel involved in the occurrence, will conduct a safety investigation regarding the circumstances of this operation conducted by the Canadian-flagged vessel Polar Prince.

"A team of TSB investigators is travelling to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to gather information, conduct interviews, and assess the occurrence.

"In the coming days, we will coordinate our activities with other agencies involved."

Meanwhile, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has been sent back down to the debris site.

The Odysseus 6 - which first discovered the "debris field" of the submersible - began its mission in late morning local time. 

It is the second mission of the Odysseus 6, and is for "continued mapping and documentation of the area and assisting in any direct recovery of debris".

Read more: 'End Titanic tourism': Calls grow for missions to see the wreck to be banned after five die in 'catastrophic implosion'

It comes after the president of the Titanic International Society called for trips to see the wreck to end “in the name of safety”.

Charles Haas questioned whether visits to the historic site should continue.

He said: "It is time to consider seriously whether human trips to Titanic's wreck should end in the name of safety, with relatively little remaining to be learned from or about the wreck."

Relatives of passengers and crew who died on the Titanic in 1912 also called on ‘adventurers’ to leave the ship’s wreckage 'in peace' out of respect to those who died.

Caller blames explorers' billionaire status for their death

It was announced on Thursday that the passengers on board the submersible that conducts tours of the Titanic wreckage had imploded, leaving all five passengers on board dead.

The relatives of those who first died on the Titanic over 100 years ago reprimanded companies for offering tours of the wreckage.

Writing in a Facebook group designated for relatives of the 1912 victims, Anna Roberts, the great-granddaughter of Percy Thomas Ward who was a bedroom steward and died on the ship, hit out at the companies for making the wreckage into a "tourist attraction".

She said: “I deplore the fact Titanic has become a tourist attraction. It is a graveyard and should be left in peace and respect.”

Another wrote on the page: “Leave those poor souls to have eternal rest.”

Destroyed: OceanGate's Titan submersible
Destroyed: OceanGate's Titan submersible. Picture: Alamy

Brett Gladstone, whose great-great grandmother was also killed on the Titanic, said speaking to Inside Edition: “I’ve always been uncomfortable with the exploitation of the ship down there.

“Over a thousand people died. My great great-grandmother's body was never found, it lies at the bottom.

“Her soul and the souls of a thousand people remains in a kind of graveyard.”

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Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son Suleman, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, 61, Paul-Henry Nargeolet, 77, and Hamish Harding, 68 (inset) were all on board
Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son Suleman, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, 61, Paul-Henry Nargeolet, 77, and Hamish Harding, 68 (inset) were all on board. Picture: Social Media

John Locascio, whose two uncles died on the Titanic, said speaking to CNN: “'I compare it to looking inside a grave. I mean, people died there tragically, very tragically.

“Why make it a place for people to go see?

“Why, why do you have to do that? Let the people rest.”

It comes after the death of five passengers on a vessel owned by OceanGate Expeditions.
It comes after the death of five passengers on a vessel owned by OceanGate Expeditions. Picture: Alamy
Relatives of those on the ship are furious at the 'exploitation' of the wreckage.
Relatives of those on the ship are furious at the 'exploitation' of the wreckage. Picture: Alamy

Meanwhile Helen Richardson, 40, whose great-great grandfather Christopher Arthur Shulver was a fireman on the Titanic and survived, told MailOnline: “It should be left alone. It is a site where all those poor people lost their lives, and a tragic site even for those who survived.”

It was confirmed by Rear Admiral John Mauger of the US Coast Guard on Thursday that the five passengers on board the missing Titanic sub, which was touring the wreckage of the 1912 ship, had died.

He said their deaths were likely the result of a “catastrophic implosion” on the same day the vessel departed.

The group consisted of Mr Harding, British nationals Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman - Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate Expeditions and 73-year-old French explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet.

The US coastguard announced the death of five passengers on the Titan on Thursday.
The US coastguard announced the death of five passengers on the Titan on Thursday. Picture: Alamy

Read more: 'Safer than crossing the street': OceanGate CEO's desperate bid to convince businessman to join doomed Titanic trip

Read more: Titanic sub crew's poignant last moments on land as cafe worker recalls how 'excited' they were for trip

Read more: Coastguard finds multiple parts of destroyed Titanic sub after all five passengers die in 'catastrophic implosion'

Read more: Will Titanic sub rescuers find the bodies of the five passengers, and what happens in a 'catastrophic implosion'?

Tributes poured in for the passengers on board the sub after the announcement.

In a statement released by Mr Harding's company Action Aviation, the family said they were "united in grief with the other families who have also lost their loved ones".

The Dawood family also released a statement saying: “It is with profound grief that we announce the passing of Shahzada and Suleman Dawood.

"Please continue to keep the departed souls and our family in your prayers during this difficult period of mourning.”

Guillermo Sohnlein, a co-founder of OceanGate has since defended the integrity of the submersible the passengers boarded.

Mr Sohnlein left the business a decade ago but insisted the sub was tested rigorously.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “He [Stockton Rush] was extremely committed to safety. He was also extremely diligent about managing risks, and was very keenly aware of the dangers of operating in a deep ocean environment.

“So that's one of the main reasons I agreed to go into business with him in 2009.

“I know from first-hand experience that we were extremely committed to safety and safety and risk mitigation was a key part of the company culture.”

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