A Year After Titan Disaster, Questions Remain

The ongoing investigation is a 'complex and ongoing effort'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 18, 2024 8:21 AM CDT
A Year After Titan Disaster, Questions Remain
The Polar Prince arrives at the port in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, in this June 24 file photo.   (Adrian Wyld /The Canadian Press via AP, file)

Tuesday marks one year since the experimental submersible Titan imploded en route to the Titanic, reports the AP, and unanswered questions linger, with no immediate answers. The US Coast Guard quickly convened a high-level investigation into what happened. Concerns leading up to the investigation included the Titan's unconventional design and its creator's decision to forgo standard independent checks. A look at the one-year anniversary:

  • What happened: The Titan made its last dive on June 18, 2023, a Sunday morning, and lost contact with its support vessel about two hours later. When it was reported overdue that afternoon, rescuers rushed ships, planes, and other equipment to the area, about 435 miles south of St. John's, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Owner OceanGate suspended its operations last July, not long after the tragedy.

  • The victims: In addition to OceanGate co-founder Stockton Rush, the implosion killed two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet. Harding and Nargeolet were members of the Explorers Club. "Then, as now, it hit us on a personal level very deeply," says the group's president, Richard Garriott.
  • Lengthy probe: Coast Guard officials said last week they wouldn't be ready to release the results of their investigation by the anniversary. A public hearing to discuss the findings won't happen for at least two more months. Marine Board of Investigation Chair Jason Neubauer described the inquiry as a "complex and ongoing effort."
  • Safety: Veteran deep-sea explorer Katy Croff Bell said the Titan implosion reinforced the importance of following industry standards and performing rigorous testing. But in the industry as a whole, "the safety track record for this has been very good for several decades," said Bell.
  • The future of deep-exploration: The tragedy won't stop it. The Georgia-based company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic plans to visit the sunken ocean liner in July using remotely operated vehicles, and a real estate billionaire from Ohio has said he plans a voyage to the shipwreck in a two-person submersible in 2026. "Progress continues," Garriott said. "I actually feel very comfortable and confident that we will now be able to proceed."
(More Titan stories.)

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