OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush hired 'university interns' to design electrical system of Titan sub

3 July 2023, 21:38

Stockton Rush hired interns to work on the sub, it has emerged.
Stockton Rush hired interns to work on the sub, it has emerged. Picture: social media

By Jenny Medlicott

Stockton Rush, former CEO of Oceangate Expeditions which led the deadly mission to the Titanic wreckage, hired university interns to work on the sub’s systems, it has emerged.

Rush hired interns from Washington State university, who boasted about the ‘Playstation remote’ used to navigate the Titan, Rob McCallum a deep sea exploration specialist has said.

Mark Walsh, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 2018, told his university newspaper at the time: “The whole electrical system - that was our design, we implemented it, and it works.”

Mr Walsh was later hired by the expedition company as an electrical-engineering lead and reportedly hired some interns from his former university, with the intent of hiring more.

Rush wanted the graduate to run operations for him, but Mr McCallum was extremely concerned when he visited the Seattle workshop, he said.

He told The New Yorker: “Everyone was drinking Kool-Aid and saying how cool they were with a Sony PlayStation.

“And I said at the time, 'Does Sony know that it's been used for this application? Because, you know, this is not what it was designed for.' There were multiple points of failure.”

Read more: Final image of UK businessman and his son before they boarded Titanic tourist sub on Father's Day

Read more: Youngest ever visitor to the Titanic passed out from lack of oxygen on trip to ocean depths

CEO Stockton Rush's honesty around the safety of the sub is being called into question.
CEO Stockton Rush's honesty around the safety of the sub is being called into question. Picture: Alamy

It comes as a number of safety issues have emerged about the CEO’s design of the sub since its fateful expedition.

McCallum also remarked on the sub’s use of Bluetooth, as he said: “Every sub in the world has hardwired controls for a reason - that if the signal drops out, you're not f*****.”

OceanGate Expeditions previously said it worked closely with NASA, Boeing and the University of Washington when putting the sub’s design together – although all the organisations have denied and distanced themselves from such claims.

It recently emerged that Rush previously emailed friend Karl Stanley, a submersibles expert, who told him of serious concerns about the safety of the Titan craft - after he heard cracking noises on a dive in the Bahamas.

Read more: OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush flew to London to reassure UK businessman and his son over Titanic sub trip

Read more: Titan sub's final moments revealed as crew was told they would be in total darkness for descent to Titanic wreck

"I think that hull has a defect near that flange, that will only get worse. The only question in my mind is will it fail catastrophically or not," Stanley said in an email to Rush seen by Insider.

Five died, including Rush, when the sub lost communication on a dive to the Titanic wreck on June 18. Four days later, after the sub’s air supply would have run out, the US Coast Guard found the wrecked shell of the sub on the ocean floor, with the cause believed to be a “catastrophic implosion”.

Reports of safety concerns about the sub's design continue to grow, despite claims the CEO had personally gone out of his way to reassure prospective passengers about its safety.

Last known picture of the Titanic submersible before it departed for the historic shipwreck
Last known picture of the Titanic submersible before it departed for the historic shipwreck. Picture: social media

In a email to friend Karl Stanley, Rush said: "I made it clear after our dive that I will not take nonessential crew, clients or media in the sub until I am confident that the hull is safe.

"As I told you before, I cancelled last year's expedition and will cancel this year's, or even shut down the company, before I will operate an unsafe sub."

However others have said Rush did truly believe the sub was safe.Last week it was reported that Rush was “flustered” on a previous dive when communications on the sub failed.

Brian Weed, a camera operator for the series Expedition Unknown, said travelling in the sub was comparable to "playing Russian roulette", suggesting the vessel got weaker and weaker with each trip to the Titanic wreckage.

He said that during a May 2021 test dive, in which he and his team travelled down 100ft, the sub's communication systems went offline and its propulsion system failed.

Rush tried to reboot the sub's system and also used the vessel's touchscreens to troubleshoot problems with the craft, Weed explained.

"You could tell that he was flustered and not really happy with the performance," Weed told AP.

"But he was trying to make light of it, trying to make excuses."