A Submarine Disaster Holds the World’s Attention // Who will be held responsible for the deaths under the waves?

“I’m struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship, and yet he steamed at full speed into an ice field on a moonless night, and many people died as a result. And for a very similar tragedy, where warnings went unheeded, to take place at the same exact site, with all the diving that’s going on around the world, I think is quite astonishing. It’s surreal.” —Deep-sea explorer James Cameron, speaking about the submarine disaster that occurred last week when the submersible vessel Titan imploded near the wreck of the RMS Titanic, killing five people on board.

People trapped in a confined place waiting for rescue have a tendency to capture the world’s attention. When some of those people are billionaires, even more attention may be focused on their plight.
For several days last week, that was the situation surrounding the submersible vehicle Titan, owned by the OceanGate company. The small sub had gone missing during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic ocean liner, which sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912. The thought of the five people on board stuck in a metal tube deep underwater as their air ran out was enough to trigger claustrophobic fear and hope of a rescue for those paying attention to the case.
As it turned out, neither the fear nor the hope were warranted. On Thursday, the US Coast Guard reported that the wreckage of the craft had been found, just a thousand feet or so away from the wreckage of the Titanic. It appeared to have imploded, crushed by the strong pressure at that great depth, with pieces scattered everywhere.
The story raised questions about safety and about who should be responsible for the trouble that adventurers, including rich people out on a tour, get into.

The submarine
Getting down to the Titanic is no easy task. The sunken ocean liner sits on the ocean floor about 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) down. At those depths, the water pressure is immense, and any submarine or submersible device must be carefully made to ensure that it can withstand such pressure. Regular navy submarines don’t dive anywhere near that deep; they would be crushed by the pressure.
(Technically, an ocean-diving vehicle that can get to and from port on its own is called a submarine, while one that must be taken out and back on another ship is called a submersible. The Titan had been carried out to sea on a Canadian research vessel.)
Many manned submersibles have gone to the depths of the Titanic and even further, but the Titan was the first commercial one. The company running it, OceanGate, was charging $250,000 per person for a ride down to the wreck, and many people have taken the company up on that offer. In 2022 alone, at least 28 people dived to the Titanic in the sub. More had gone the year before.

Its problems
As the rescue attempt unfolded last week, more and more information began surfacing about the possible safety problems of this sub.
First came the news that a former employee, David Lochridge, had been in court with the company in 2018 because of his claim that there were safety problems with the design of the sub at that time.
Lochridge had claimed that he had been fired by the company because he was worried about the safety of the material that the submersible’s walls were made of, as well as the strength of a viewport in the side of the sub. Lochridge claimed that the viewport had been rated as safe only to 1,400 meters deep, but the dive to the Titanic would go to 4,000 meters. The company, he said, was simply too cheap to have the company that made the viewport create one that was rated safe at 4,000 meters.