OceanGate boss 'was warned about creaking noise that indicated danger' to hull of Titan sub years before implosion

24 June 2023, 12:26

Stockton Rush was warned about the sub
Stockton Rush was warned about the sub. Picture: Alamy/OceanGate

By Will Taylor

A submersible expert who has been aboard OceanGate's Titan sub heard cracking sounds and reported his concerns to the company's boss.

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Karl Stanley was invited by Stockton Rush to try the vessel in the Bahamas in April 2019.

Rush, who designed the carbon fibre hull of Titan himself, took the controls and told Stanley that the noise he heard was just creaking.

But Stanley, who runs a tourist submersible firm in Honduras, said it dawned on him after that the noise probably indicated a danger, he told CNN.

He sent an email to Rush, setting out his belief that it "sounded like a flaw/defect in one area being acted on by the tremendous pressures and being crushed/damaged".

Emails obtained by the New York Times show he worried part of the hull "is breaking down" and he said Rush should go slower with making the sub.

He told Rush: "A useful thought exercise here would be to imagine the removal of the variables of the investors, the eager mission scientists, your team hungry for success, the press releases already announcing this summer's dive schedule.

Read more: Ross Kemp was set to dive to the Titanic on doomed submersible but production company ruled it was too dangerous

Rush was warned about the sub's safety
Rush was warned about the sub's safety. Picture: Alamy

"Imagine this project was self funded and on your own schedule. Would you consider taking dozens of other people to the Titanic before you truly knew the source of those sounds??"

He received no reply from the CEO.

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

Rush, 61, died on the submarine when it likely imploded after setting off the the Titanic on Sunday, along with British billionaire Hamish Harding, 55, businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, his son Suleman, 19, and French ex-navy diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77.

Questions about the safety of the Titan have been raised and the tragedy is being investigated.

Fears about the Titan's safety were raised
Fears about the Titan's safety were raised. Picture: OceanGate

Rush, who promoted the tours from 2017 - saying early on he would charge $105,000 because that was the inflation-adjusted cos of a Titanic ticket - later fired OceanGate's maritime operations director over a disagreement about safety protocols.

Experts also warned him at an industry event in 2018 that he was going too fast.

But OceanGate ploughed on, with Rush saying he was "tired of industry players who try to use a safety argument to stop innovation".