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Titanic salvage mission scrapped after project leader killed in Titan sub implosion
16 October 2023, 09:28 | Updated: 16 October 2023, 09:42
Plans to retrieve more artefacts from the site of the Titanic shipwreck have been scrapped after the “catastrophic implosion” of the OceanGate Titan sub earlier this year.
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The company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic shipwreck has cancelled an upcoming expedition to recover more artefacts after the leader of the dive died on the doomed Titan sub.
RMS Titanic Inc has said that the scheduled expedition “would not be appropriate” after the death of Paul-Henri Nargeolet who died while attempting to explore the site in June, according to documents filed in a US district court last week.
Mr Nargeolet was the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic Inc (RMST), which recovers and exhibits Titanic artefacts, but died on the OceanGate sub in June.
Five were killed in the tragic incident, including OceanGate's CEO Stockton Rush, which took place around 1,600 feet (488 meters) away from the Titanic.
The RMST had planned to take images of the wreckage and recover items from the debris field with Mr Nargeolet leading the operation scheduled for 2024. The company had also reportedly raised the possibility of retrieving objects from the ship’s Marconi room, where the ship's famed distress signals were broadcast from.
Mr Nargeolet, a former French navy officer, had already completed 37 dives and supervised the recovery of around 5,000 Titanic artefacts.
“Out of respect for P.H. Nargeolet and his family, and the other four people who perished so recently at the site, and their families, the company has decided that artifact recovery would not be appropriate at this time,” the RMST wrote in the court documents.
However the firm has said it will continue to conduct surveys and take pictures of the wreck remotely to refine “future artifact recovery”.
The firm’s decision to bow out of the expedition could impact a looming court battle it had lined up with the US government, which had been trying to stop the mission from taking place.
The US government cited federal law and an international agreement between the US and Britain which declared that the wreckage is a hallowed grave site.
“Today’s filing underscores that we take our responsibilities seriously,” RMST CEO Jessica Sanders said in a statement.
“In light of the OceanGate tragedy, the loss of our dear colleague Paul-Henri ‘P.H.’ Nargeolet, and the ongoing investigation, we have opted to amend our previous filing to only conduct unmanned imaging and survey work at this time.”
The RMST added that it would send no further crews to the Titanic until “further investigation takes place regarding the cause of the [OceanGate] tragedy”.