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Coast Guard launches high-level investigation into implosion of Titanic exploration submersible


Left: Capt. Jason Neubauer, chief investigator, U.S. Coast Guard, speaks during a news conference, Sunday, June 25, 2023, at Coast Guard Base Boston, in Boston. The U.S. Coast Guard said it is leading an investigation into the loss of the Titan submersible that was carrying five people to the Titanic, to determine what caused it to implode (AP Photo/Steven Senne). Right: Image of OceanGate Titan submersible via OceanGate.

The U.S. Coast Guard has launched an investigation into what officials have deemed the “catastrophic implosion” of a private underwater vessel that was destroyed as it traveled toward the wreckage of the Titanic, killing all five people on board.

The Coast Guard announced the investigation Sunday.

“The Coast Guard convened a Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) into the loss of the Titan submersible and the five people on board,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. As the statement recounts, the crew of the OceanGate submersible’s support ship, the Polar Prince, lost contact with the Titan around one hour and 45 minutes after it started its journey on Sunday, June 18. An extensive search and rescue effort followed, with reports of “underwater noises” bringing renewed hope to the effort on Wednesday, June 21, but on Thursday, June 22, Coast Guard officials made the grim announcement that all five lives had been lost.

“[W]reckage of the Titan submersible was located on the ocean floor approximately 500 meters off the bow of the Titanic,” the Coast Guard’s announcement says.

OceanGate founder and CEO Stockton Rush, British businessman Hamish Harding, French researcher Paul-Henri Nargeolet, and British-Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood were on board.

According to the Coast Guard, an MBI is “the highest level of investigation in the Coast Guard.” A report will be issued once the investigation is completed.

The press release emphasized that the investigation will also focus on whether any “misconduct, incompetence, negligence, unskillfulness, or willful violation of law” contributed to the implosion and deaths, and whether any violations of U.S. civil or criminal law occurred. Additionally, the investigation will consider whether “there is need for new laws or regulations, or amendment or repeal of existing laws or regulations, to prevent the recurrence of the casualty,” the press release says.

As Law&Crime previously reported, a 2018 lawsuit alleged that OceanGate fired an employee who raised concerns over the Titan’s safety and ability to withstand the pressure of diving down to 4,000 meters or around 13,000 feet, the depth where the remains of the Titanic have come to rest. A former OceanGate director of marine operations had expressed concern that a component’s failure would be indicated only milliseconds before an implosion. That lawsuit was settled out of court.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Canadian Transportation Safety Board, French Marine Casualties Investigation Board, and United Kingdom Marine Accident Investigation Branch are also participating in the investigation.

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