A former employee of OceanGate said back in 2018 that the company’s Titan submersible was not safe to dive, The New Yorker reported.
Former OceanGate director of marine operations and chief submersible pilot David Lochridge was fired after voicing concerns about OceanGate’s testing protocol. In an email exchange back in 2018, he was asked how his relationship with OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was holding up after his firing.
Lochridge replied that people would be “taken aback” if they really knew what was happening at the company, and that he would share his feelings about the Titan sub at another time, but was afraid of retaliation from Rush because of his “influence and money.”
“That sub is Not safe to dive,” Lochridge wrote.
“Do you think the sub could be made safe to dive, or is it a complete lemon?” deep sea exploration specialist Rob McCallum asked. “You will get a lot of support from people in the industry. Everyone is watching and waiting and quietly sh***ing their pants.”
“It’s a lemon,” Lochridge replied.
“Oh dear,” McCallum replied. “Oh dear, oh dear.”
According to The New Yorker, Lochridge inspected OceanGate’s submersible model and found “several critical aspects to be defective or unproven.” The report he made out detailing his concerns included the vessel’s carbon-fiber hull, which is what investigators think failed first when it imploded on a dive to the Titanic’s wreckage site, killing all five people aboard including Rush.
There were repeated warnings about the safety of the vessel from people both within and outside the company — all of whom Rush ignored.
During a dive in the Bahamas in 2019, Rush told a friend that he would shut down his company before he ever operated a vehicle that was unsafe.
Rush made the remarks to Karl Stanley, an expert on submersibles who had expressed concern about the safety of Rush’s operation after he heard cracking noises emanating from Titan during the dive.
“I think that hull has a defect near that flange, that will only get worse. The only question in my mind is will it fail catastrophically or not,” Stanley said in an email to Rush.
“I made it clear after our dive that I will not take nonessential crew, clients or media in the sub until I am confident that the hull is safe,” Rush replied. “As I told you before, I cancelled last year’s expedition and will cancel this year’s, or even shut down the company, before I will operate an unsafe sub.”