OceanGate suspends operations after Titan submersible tragedy

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The owner of the submersible that killed five people after imploding during a catastrophic voyage to the Titanic has shut down its operations as questions linger over its safety record.

Two weeks after OceanGate Expeditions embarked on a disastrous journey that resulted in the deaths of its chief executive and four passengers, the American company announced on its website that it “has suspended all business and commercial operations”.

Debris from the Titan submersible, recovered from the ocean floor near the wreck of the Titanic.Credit: The Canadian Press

The move comes as OceanGate faces a string of investigations and potential lawsuits over the tragedy, as well as ongoing criticism over its refusal to get properly certified or heed warnings that its vessel was unsafe.

The disaster began on June 18 when the 6.7-metre submersible, known as the Titan, disappeared off the coast of Canada one hour and 45 minutes into a journey to the bottom of the North Atlantic to view the wreckage of the Titanic.

Four days later, after a frantic international search, debris from the submersible was found on the ocean floor, confirming that the crushing pressure of the ocean abyss had caused the vessel to implode as it made its descent.

On board was OceanGate chief executive Stockton Rush, an ambitious, risk-taking entrepreneur who founded the company in 2009 with a vision to “open the oceans” – even if it meant not following standard regulations because he feared this could stifle innovation.

The Titan was a small vessel that was launched from another ship, the Canadian icebreaker Polar Prince.

Alongside him were four passengers: British billionaire Hamish Harding, British-Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman; and French maritime expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The US Coast Guard is now leading an investigation into the deadly incident, with input from National Transportation Safety Board, which will gather information, determine a probable cause and issue safety recommendations.

Jason Neubauer, the Coast Guard’s chief investigator, said last month that this could involve the possible pursuit of civil or criminal sanctions “as necessary.”

Despite Thursday’s announcement, OceanGate’s website still features promotional videos of equipment and expeditions, including two trips to the Titanic scheduled for next year and another two missions in May and June 2024 for deep-sea diving to the corals located off the coast of Portugal’s Azores Archipelago.

A company spokeswoman has not yet responded to a request from this masthead for further comment.

“OceanGate has suspended all exploration and commercial operations,” the top of its official website simply says.

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