OceanGate boss was on a ‘predatory’ mission to find wealthy clients, industry leaders claim

26 June 2023, 10:34 | Updated: 27 June 2023, 11:11

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush adopted "predatory" tactics to get people on board, industry figures have claimed
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush adopted "predatory" tactics to get people on board, industry figures have claimed. Picture: OceanGate/Alamy

By Asher McShane

The boss of OceanGate, who perished on a trip to the wreck of the Titanic, was on a “predatory” mission to find wealthy clients to endorse his deep sea trips, industry leaders have claimed.

Stockton Rush died along with four other people when the submersible suffered a ‘catastrophic explosion’ on the way down to the wreck site.

Patrick Lahey, president of Triton submarines, told The Times he was trying to stop potential clients from being dissuaded from going on the trip on safety grounds.

“He could even convince someone who knew and understood the risks… it was really quite predatory,” said Mr Lahey.

Mr Lahey was a close friend of PH Nargeolet, who also died on the trip.

Read More: Couple suing OceanGate's Stockton Rush for refusing to refund $210,000 trip drop lawsuit 'out of respect for victims'

“It's terribly sad that PH's life ended that way but PH knew the risks. I told him in very candid terms why he shouldn't be out there.

“He understood. I believe PH thought in some way that by being out there he could help these guys avoid a tragedy but instead he ended up in the middle of one.

“I told PH that going out there in some way sanctioned this operation.

“I said: "You're becoming an ambassador for this thing; people look at you and your record and the life you lead and things you've done, which are extraordinary, and in some way you are legitimizing what [Oceangate] are doing."'

Financier Jay Bloom also revealed he turned down tickets aboard the sub for him and his son Sean after fearing they wouldn't survive the trip.

Speaking to news channel NewsNation, he said: “It was very concerning. The major red flag for my son was when Stockton can to see me in Las Vegas in March.

“He was coming to Las Vegas on an experimental plane that he built to take me on an experimental sub that he built to take me to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.' 

“When Stockton first approached me with the idea it sounded very sexy, very exciting, a real bucket list kind of item.

“My son talked to his friend and they voiced concerns, about the vessel, the marine life, some of the materials that were used in the construction.”

A salvage operation at the debris site on the sea bed about 1,600 feet from the wreck of the Titanic is planned.

Captain Jason Neubauer, who is chairing the US Coast Guard investigation into the implosion, said the findings “will help improve the safety framework for submersible operations worldwide.”

Rear Admiral John Mauger, of the First Coast Guard District, confirmed that the Coast Guard has launched a Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) into “the loss of the submersible and the five people on board”.

Today, the wife of one of the Titanic sub disaster victims described how her son and husband ‘really wanted to go’ on the ill-fated trip.

Christine Dawood, in her first interview, described the moment he heard that communication with the sub has been lost.

“I didn’t comprehend at that moment what it meant - and then it just went downhill from there.”

Christine was onboard the Polar Prince mothership when communications were lost at 8am on Sunday June 18.

As a massive search effort was launched, she said she and her daughter clung to hope for days but said she “lost hope when we passed the 96 hour mark.”

Read more: Titanic tourist sub investigators 'taking precautions' in case bodies found on sea floor

Read more: Kremlin threatened Wagner soldiers' families as Britain told to brace for fall of Putin

Christine Dawood pictured with her husband Shahzada Dawood
Christine Dawood pictured with her husband Shahzada Dawood. Picture: Facebook

“That's when I lost hope. That's when I sent the message to my family onshore, I said: 'I am preparing for the worst’.”

The widow tearfully said: “I miss them. I really, really miss them.”

She also described how her son Suleman, 19, planned to take his Rubik’s Cube on the trip to film a video of him solving the puzzle in the depths with the hope of breaking a world record.

Read more: Britain bakes: UK set for five more heatwaves this summer as Sunday becomes joint hottest day of 2023

Read more: Man, 58, hit by van in Nottingham attack cannot recognise relatives as family 'doesn't know how bad he'll get'

Disaster: The doomed OceanGate submersible
Disaster: The doomed OceanGate submersible. Picture: Alamy

“Suleman did a 10,000-piece lego Titanic. He applied for a world record because he wanted to solve a Rubik's Cube at the deepest point,” she said.

The sub suffered a ‘catastrophic implosion’ with the wreckage found 1,600ft from the bow of the Titanic.

Sharada, Suleman, and British billionaire Hamish Harding were passengers on board. OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was also inside, with  Paul-Henry Nargeolet, 77, a former French navy diver and experienced Titanic diver. 

Christian revealed that she had originally planned to go down to the wreck with her husband, but the trip was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Polar Prince towing the Titan Titanic Expeditions submersible vessel on a barge for a tour of the Titanic
Polar Prince towing the Titan Titanic Expeditions submersible vessel on a barge for a tour of the Titanic. Picture: Alamy

“I stepped back and gave them space to set [Suleman] up, because he really wanted to go,” she said.

After communication was lost, she said: “We had loads of hope, that was the only thing that got us through it because we were hoping”.

“There were so many actions the people on this sub can do in order to surface... they would drop the weights, then the ascent would be slower, we were constantly looking at the surface. There was that hope.

“We all thought they are just going to come up so that shock was delayed by about 10 hours or so,” she told the BBC.

“By the time they were supposed to be up again, there was a time.... when they were supposed to be up on the surface again and when that time passed the real shock, not shock but the worry and the not so good feelings started.”

“My daughter didn't lose hope until the call with the Coastguard when they basically informed us that they had found debris.

“She is such an incredible young woman, she is so self-aware.

“She believes in science, and she really believe, just like if you board a plane, that the science, the mechanics, the engineering will work.”

When asked what the family's last words to each other were, she said: “We just hugged and joked actually, because Shahzada was so excited to go down, he was like a little child. 

“He had this ability of childhood excitement, they were both so excited.”