Dive expert friend of missing Brits on Titanic sub says vessel design is 'unconventional' and calls for 'rethink'

20 June 2023, 19:13 | Updated: 21 June 2023, 15:18

David Mearns (left) spoke to LBC about his two missing friends on the Titanic sub
David Mearns (left) spoke to LBC about his two missing friends on the Titanic sub. Picture: Alamy/Facebook/2 Seas Agency

By Emma Soteriou

The Titanic tourist sub design is "unconventional" and trips to the wreckage need to be rethought, a diver friend of two missing passengers has said.

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Rescuers face a race against time to find the Titanic submersible, thought to be 12,500 feet below the surface, and retrieve its five passengers, before their oxygen supply runs out on Thursday.

Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, experienced shipwreck hunter David Mearns spoke about the unique vessel and his connection to two of the people on board.

"[The sub] is no doubt an unconventional design and build, including the launching systems. It’s not like anything else that has preceded it," Mr Mearns said.

It comes after it was revealed that the submersible - run by the marine company OceanGate Expeditions - is operated with a modified video game controller.

"Whatever happens, and hopefully all five men come home safely, I think there’s going to be an investigation and a rethink about this type of activity," Mr Mearns added.

"Lessons of some type need to be learned."

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Mearns: the sub is an 'unconventional design' and investigation needed into dives

Mr Mearns also spoke about his connection to UK billionaire Hamish Harding and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, who had been dubbed as the "Titanic's greatest explorer".

"I know both men – one professionally and one socially – they are from completely different backgrounds and positions in life but I know they would’ve got on together like a house on fire," Mr Mearns said.

"They’re two characters so it would not surprise me if we learned that Hamish actually requested that PH join him or that it was almost a match made where they said ‘Hamish you need to dive with PH because he will give you the best illumination to the wreckage, the history'... he knows the debris field and he knows the two bits of Titanic as well as anybody does.

"Theres probably only one or two people who have done more dives to the site than he does."

Read more: Forty hours of 'breathable' air left on missing Titanic sub as underwater drones deployed in search

Read more: 'We have to move now!': Vital equipment needed to rescue Titanic submersible 'stuck on tarmac due to US bureaucracy'

David Mearns: 'it is the most hostile environment'

At a press conference on Tuesday evening, the US coast guard said they now only have 40 hours to find the missing group.

Captain Frederick said that the search is “very complex” as he issued his thoughts and prayers for the crew and their families as the search continues.

Remotely operated vehicles (ROV) have now been deployed to dive to the sub's last known location.