The tragedy-bound Titan submersible was severely damaged after it was struck by lightning in 2018, the late OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush revealed in a resurfaced interview.
Rush explained that his ill-fated sub suffered an indirect lightning strike in the Bahamas during a test dive in late April that year.
‘Fortunately, it was not a direct strike. A direct strike to the carbon fiber probably would have taken us totally out,’ Rush told Matt Burdyny, the Vice President of Teledyne Marine in the 2020 interview.
Although the interview has since been deleted form Teledyne’s website copies were uploaded to YouTube.
Rush has become a household name for the fate of his Titan mission after it imploded during a tourist trip to visit the Titanic wreckage last month, killing all five passengers onboard.
Stockton Rush, 58, Chief Executive Officer and founder of OceanGate Inc died alongside the rest of the crew when the Titan imploded during a June dive to the Titanic wreck
OceanGate’s Titan submersible went missing shortly after it departed for the Titanic wreckage, its debris was later discovered during an extensive rescue mission
In a May 2018 Instagram post on OceanGate’s account the firm said: ‘Deep sea testing began in late April near Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas.
‘Upon arrival the sub’s electronics sustained lightning damage that affected over 70% of its internal systems.’
The strike led to a postponement of a Titanic Survey Expedition, with Rush commenting at the time that while the delay was disappointing his firm was ‘not willing to short cut the testing process due to a condensed timeline.’
Adding: ‘We are 100% committed to safety and want to fully test the sub and validate all operational and emergency procedures before launching any expedition.’
In the August interview with Burdyny, Rush appeared to be unfazed by the setback, claiming that the Titan’s damaged parts were replaced within ‘a couple of days’.
‘Fortunately, we are using commercial off-the-shelf and line-replaceable items. So in a matter of a couple of days, we were able to replace all those components,’ Rush said.
‘But we continued to have issues on connectors, penetrators wiring, lightning can do weird things’ Rush explained.
The safety of the submersible and OceanGate’s dismissal of several warnings has drawn considerable criticism after the Titan went missing during a June 18 dive to the seafloor.
The CEO – who considered himself to be more of a scientist than a salesman despite much of his efforts being focused on marketing the sub trips – was begged in 2019 to suspend operations after a submersible expert heard cracking sounds during one of the Titan’s dives in the Bahamas.
OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush (pictured) made a trip to London to reassure businessmen that taking the Titan submersible to the Titanic shipwreck was safe, it has emerged
The Titan submersible is seen being towed out to sea on board its raft
The five passengers on board the Titan were hoping to see the 111-year-old wreckage of the Titanic
Mr Rush reportedly believed going to the depths of the Atlantic in the Titan was ‘safer than crossing the street’, despite having been warned by dozens of experts in 2018 that his company’s ‘experimental’ approaches could be ‘catastrophic’.
The chair of the Marine Technology Society’s manned underwater vehicles committee had drafted a letter to Mr Rush in 2018 alleging there were potentially ‘catastrophic’ consequences associated with OceanGate’s approach, The New York Times reported. Dozens of experts had signed the letter.
The following year, an expert warned Mr Rush that he had heard cracking sounds during a dive and urged him to suspend the Titan’s operations. But, after making revisions, the CEO continued to take customers onboard.
In the resurfaced 2020 Teledyne interview Rush expressed frustration with members of the industry criticizing his missions.
‘When I started the business old-timers in the industry said I was nuts, and they continued to tell me that.’
‘Partly because they said I was going to take inexperienced pilots in a submarine in current, in zero visibility and they thought I was insane.’
He said he told these nay-sayers that they didn’t ‘appreciate what multi-beam sonar does for situational awareness.’
Rush also added that ‘for the deep sub we needed acoustic data communications because I find nothing more annoying than someone trying to call me from the surface.’
It has also been revealed that during a dive in 2021, the Titan lost its propulsion system on one side during the descent.
Mr Rush reportedly aborted the trip but could not get the so-called ‘drop-weight mechanism’ to release ballast for the ascent.
Bill Price, who was on the journey, told the newspaper that Mr Rush instructed passengers to rock the sub so the weights would drop off and they could return to the surface. Despite the issue, the Titan went out on another dive the next day.
The resurfacing of the 2020 interview comes after it was revealed that the boss of the doomed Titan submarine flew to London to personally reassure a British-Pakistani billionaire and his son that the vessel was safe.
Three months before the voyage, OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush and his wife met with Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman to brief them on their upcoming journey to the bottom of the Atlantic.
The billionaire’s grieving wife Christine Dawood claims that while Mr Rush spoke to the family about the submersible’s design and safety, the technical aspects of the trip still remained unclear.
‘That engineering side, we just had no idea,’ Mrs Dawood told The New York Times. ‘I mean, you sit in a plane without knowing how the engine works.’