OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told a friend he would ‘shut down the company’ before operating an unsafe sub

2 July 2023, 19:08 | Updated: 3 July 2023, 21:45

Stockton Rush, left, and the wreckage of the Titan sub
Stockton Rush, left, and the wreckage of the Titan sub. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Stockton Rush, the CEO of Oceangate Expeditions which led the fateful mission to the Titanic that claimed his life and the life of four others, told a friend in 2019 that he would shut his firm down before operating an unsafe vessel.

Rush 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.

“"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”.

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The Titan sub suffered a "catastrophic implosion" killing all five on board
The Titan sub suffered a "catastrophic implosion" killing all five on board. Picture: Alamy

Submersible lost on dive to Titanic suffered 'catastrophic implosion', say US Coast Guard

In his email exchange, 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."

Rush and OceanGate have come under intense scrutiny over the sub’s safety and lack of certification, with industry experts criticising their approach.

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."

Weed and his team had intended to produce a documentary featuring the OceanGate submersible but decided not to take a full dive in the Titan due to safety concerns.

"I felt like every time the vessel goes down, it's going to get weaker and weaker," he said.

"And that's a little bit like playing Russian roulette."