Rules regarding submersibles have been “written in blood”, the chairman of a marine technology society has claimed, as he laid bare a warning he gave to OceanGate about Titan.
William Kohnen, the chairman of the Manned Underwater Vehicles Committee, spoke about his fears he held for Titan, the doomed sub that was used to visit the wreck of the Titanic, prior to the tragedy.
Five explorers have been confirmed dead after Titan lost human contact on Sunday (June 18), with the US Coast Guard confirming the news in a press conference last night.
The heartbreaking situation sparked an international response, with crews from across the globe descending on the site in Newfoundland earlier this week.
And for Mr Kohnen, the industry, and OceanGate in particular, have questions to answer.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Kohnen – who is based in Los Angeles – said he raised his own concerns in 2018 about OceanGate’s development of Titan.
Mr Kohnen claimed OceanGate was “not willing to undergo the standard certification process which we all do in the submarine industry” – which is made through a third-party “double-check” system.
His committee told OceanGate at the time that the development of Titan may have “negative outcomes from minor to catastrophic that could have serious consequences”.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the chairman said: “We’re only smart because we remember what we wrote and what we did wrong last time.”
He added: “The rules are written in blood – it is in there because it caused trouble before, and to say: ‘Well I think we’re just going to ignore that and go on our own way,’ suggests there might be a bit of input of wisdom that this might not be the best decision.”
The families and friends of British adventurer Hamish Harding, UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, French Titanic explorer Paul-Henri Nargeoloet and OceanGate co-found Stockton Rush, have paid tribute to them after it emerged they had died.
Among those to reflect on the deceased was Dik Barton, the first Briton to dive to the wreck of the Titanic.
He hailed Mr Nargeoloet as an “extraordinary individual”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the explorer said: “What we were doing was a professional, underwater exploration using purpose-built submersibles which are designed to work at those depths.”
As it emerged the five had died, Guillermo Söhnlein – a co-founder of OceanGate, rejected criticism of Titan and instead said it would be “premature for anybody to speculate on what happened”.
He told GB News on Thursday: “It’s going to take days, weeks, months to collect data and analyse the data and try to figure out what happened.
“Right now is more a time to mourn the loss of the crewmembers and preserve their legacies.”