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He once rode in the Titan submersible but didn’t realize how close he came to death until a year after its fatal dive



He once rode in the Titan submersible but didn’t realize how close he came to death until a year after its fatal dive

In April 2019, Karl Stanley, a fellow submersible expert, joined his peer, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, near the Bahamas to take a dive in an early iteration of the Titan vessel.

Stanley, Rush, and two other passengers successfully plunged more than 12,000 feet — a depth that closes in on the Titanic’s wreckage, which sits at the bottom of the Atlantic at about 12,500 feet.

But Stanley left with concerns.

In emails shared with Business Insider, Stanley warned Rush about a possible defect in the hull after hearing a cracking sound.

“I think that hull has a defect near that flange, that will only get worse,” Stanley wrote to Rush in May 2019. “The only question in my mind is will it fail catastrophically or not.”

Stanley urged Rush to take precautions and conduct more tests on the vessel before taking on passengers. But those warnings were largely ignored.

An investigative report published by Wired on June 11 — nearly a year after the fateful Titan expedition revealed how OceanGate CEO Rush was adamant about cutting costs to build his ship and repeatedly downplayed warnings from his colleagues.

Stanley told BI in a recent interview that he didn’t know the extent of the hull’s problem — and just how close he was to danger during his dive with Rush — until he read the Wired piece.

The Titan submersible, a cylindrical vessel with a small hatch at the front, diving in dark blue waters.

OceanGate Expeditions’ Titan submersible.

OceanGate Expeditions via AP, File

Emails between the OceanGate CEO and Stanley shared with BI last year showed Rush dismissing Stanley’s concern with the Titan’s hull. The CEO wrote at the time that “one experiential data point is not sufficient to determine the integrity of the hull.”

However, according to the Wired report, Rush also became concerned about “loud noises the hull was making at depth” around the time of the expedition with Stanley.

According to the report, the issues with the vessel weren’t fully confronted until two months after Stanley’s dive and just three weeks before the Titan was going to make a trip to the Titanic.

An inspection revealed a crack in the Titan’s hull that an unnamed OceanGate pilot described to Rush as “pretty serious,” Wired reported.

An internal report viewed by Wired later showed at least an 11-square-foot area where the layers of the carbon fiber hull had separated. According to Wired, this defect forced Rush to delay the trip to the Titanic and build another Titan submersible.

‘The more evidence that comes to light, the more my position is reinforced’

Stanley told BI that he was shocked to read the Wired’s report revealing more information about his 2019 dive with Rush.

“The doomsday clock got a little bit closer to midnight,” Stanley said. “I knew that the hull was not doing great, but the [report on the] visible damage blew my mind.”

Stanley said, as more information comes out about the Titan incident, he’s frustrated with the people close to Rush, who he felt could’ve done more to stop the CEO from succumbing to his own ambitions.

“The more evidence that comes to light, the more my position is reinforced,” he said. “Stockton had to know on some level how this would end.”

On June 18, 2023, a little over four years after Stanley’s trip, Rush and four other passengers, who each paid up to $250,000 for a seat inside the Titan, dove to the historical wreckage.

Less than two hours into the dive, the Titan lost communications with its mothership at the surface, sparking a massive international search and rescue effort.

Five days later, US Coast Guard officials announced that the Titan imploded due to a “catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber.” The five passengers, including Rush, were instantly killed.

A federal investigation into the implosion continues to this day.

A venture driven by ego

A spokesperson for OceanGate, which ceased all operations shortly after the Titan catastrophe, could not be reached for comment.

Guillermo Söhnlein, the OceanGate co-founder who left the company in 2013, maintained some communication with Rush but told BI in an interview that he can’t say if he would’ve told the CEO to do anything differently because he wasn’t always aware of what was happening at the company after his departure.

While he agreed that Rush’s Titan project was driven by ego, Söhnlein said that the trait comes with any ambitious innovator, especially in the field of exploration.

“Karl built two of his subs in a garage,” Söhnlein, who recently spoke with Stanley, said. “Talk about the manifestation of your ego. He’s one of the most experienced sub pilots in the world now.”

Stanley continues to operate his submersible for tourists in Honduras. He told BI that last year was his 25th year in business.

“I just surfaced from a 4-hour dive,” Stanley wrote to BI on Thursday. “So, I guess things are going well.”

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