A British man who reserved a place on the missing Titanic submarine reportedly decided to withdraw from the trip after having safety concerns.
Chris Brown booked a spot on the OceanGate craft alongside his friend Hamish Harding, who is one of the five people on he missing vessel. However, He had second thoughts about the voyage after getting a closer look at the technology used to operate the submersible and the materials used to build the small craft, it has been reported.
The submersible, named Titan, lost communication with tour operators on Sunday while about 435 miles south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the shipwreck off the coast of Canada.
British billionaire Mr Harding, 58, has been confirmed as one of five passengers on board the missing vessel and fellow countryman Mr Brown, 61, had initially planned to join him on the trip and paid a deposit to reserve a place. He ended up pulling out of the trip, however, upon discovering, among other things, that the submersible would be steered by its pilot using a computer console-style gamepad.
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The digital marketing tycoon said further red flags were raised when he learned of technical issues and delays, causing him to question if OceanGate was cutting corners.
Speaking to The Sun, Mr Brown said: “I found out they used old scaffolding poles for the sub’s ballast — and its controls were based on computer game-style controllers. If you’re trying to build your own submarine you could probably use old scaffold poles. But this was a commercial craft.
“Eventually I emailed them and said, ‘I’m no longer able to go on this thing’. I asked for a refund after being less than convinced.”
The sub disappeared on an expedition to explore the Titanic’s wreckage
Rescuers are in a race against time to locate the missing 22ft mini-sub as experts say the craft’s oxygen supply is set to expire at around 11am on Thursday.
Air-sea rescue teams hoping to find the submersible have widened their search as military planes scour the scene and sonar bouys have been dropped in an effort to detect sounds generated by the vessel, including shouts or banging on the hull from those on board. But experts say the odds of a successful rescue mission are increasingly long amid fears that Titan may have suffered an “explosive decompression”.
Mr Brown and Mr Harding’s paths crossed for the first time on a trek to the South Pole alongside the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, in 2016. The pair were on holiday on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island that year when they decided to sign up for the Titanic trip. Both men stumped up £8,000 each to cover their deposits for the voyage, which was priced at £80,000 at the time but the cost had more than doubled since.
Mr Brown’s enthusiasm for the trip began to wane, however, when he found out in subsequent years that OceanGate had missed key targets as it depth-tested Titan. Feeling that the risk was too high, the multi-millionaire decided to withdraw from the voyage.
Describing his friend as the type of person who isn’t likely to panic, Mr Brown said he expects Mr Harding to be a “calming influence” on his fellow submarine passengers “and will be giving them hope”.