OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush spent more than a decade seeking to perfect Titanic tourism – while battling multiple lawsuits and serious safety concerns.
Rush was one of five men who died on the Titan submersible after the vessel suffered a ‘catastrophic implosion’ 1,600ft from the bow of Titanic.
The frantic search and rescue attempt has since brought to light a host of flaws with the doomed vessel’s design and construction – with previous adventurers revealing how their own terrifying trips to the iconic wreck on the Titan went awry.
It is unclear exactly how many journeys the Titan submersible successfully made to the Titanic wreck, but it is thought to have carried passengers on at least ten trips before tragedy struck.
Rush, French Navy veteran Paul-Henri (PH) Nargeolet, British billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, 19, were instantly killed when the vessel malfunctioned on Sunday.
Here, DailyMail.com breaks down the timeline of events leading up to the Titan’s horrifying demise…
Shahzada Dawood, 48, a UK-based board member of the Prince’s Trust charity, and his son Suleman Dawood, 19, were on board
Billionaire Hamish Harding (left), CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai and French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet (right) both died in the submersible
2009: OceanGate is founded
OceanGate was co-founded by Rush and Guillermo Söhnlein in 2009, starting operations on the West Coast.
Rush launched the company after graduating from Princeton University with a BSE in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1984.
He obtained an MBA at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 1989, according to his biography on OceanGate’s website.
February 2012: OceanGate expands to Florida and the Caribbean
The company registers as a corporation in Miami, with Söhnlein as president and Rush as secretary.
Documents state the company incorporated in Washington State in December 2011, but still considered itself Bahamas based.
OceanGate’s Titan submersible went missing shortly after it departed for the Titanic wreckage on Sunday morning
May 2013: Collaboration announced with the University of Washington
OceanGate announced a collaboration with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab on Project Cyclops, a new 3000-meter five-person submersible.
However the college has since denied working with the company on the Titan despite an initial press release.
In a statement it said: ‘The physics lab initially signed a $5 million research collaborative agreement with OceanGate, but only $650,000 worth of work was completed before the two organizations parted ways.
‘That collaboration resulted in a steel-hulled vessel, named the Cyclops 1, that can travel to 500 meters depth, which is far shallower than the depths that OceanGate’s Titan submersible traveled to.
‘The Laboratory was not involved in the design, engineering or testing of the Titan submersible used in the RMS Titanic expedition,’
August 2013: Submersible feasibility study into hull design
The University of Washington completed a design feasibility study for hull design for Cyclops submersible in August 2013.
OceanGate announced a collaboration with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab on Project Cyclops – something which the college has now denied
June 2015: Report published on submersible
Rush and science and technology director Erika Montague, published a report on Cyclops I with Peter Brodsky, an engineer at the University of Washington.
November 2015: Customers start paying deposits for Titanic tours
Marc and Sharon Hagle signed a contract and paid $10,000 deposits to OceanGate to participate in an expedition to the Titanic wreck.
June 2016: OceanGate submersible dives to wreck in Nantucket
One of the submersibles owned by OceanGate successfully completed a dive over the wreck of the Andrea Doria off Nantucket – though it is unclear which vessel was involved in the mission.
March 2017: Titanic dive announced
OceanGate and Rush announced it would be launching the Titanic missions in the first manned submersibles to dive to the iconic wreck since 2005.
They added that private citizens could join the expedition as mission specialists for $105,129 each.
Leaders in the submersible industry sent a letter to OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush (pictured) – who died on the vessel – urging him to take caution
August 2017: Core pressure vessel completed
OceanGate completed assembly of core pressure vessel, bonding two titanium rings to the ends of a 56-inch wide, 100-inch-long carbon-fiber cylinder.
January 2018: Successful launch and recovery
The company confirmed that it successfully tested the launch and recovery platform of Cyclops 2.
Engineers handed over the vessel to the operations team – who renamed it the Titan.
March 2018: Trade group raises safety concerns
Leaders of the Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society, sent a letter to OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush urging him to take caution.
The letter, obtained by the New York Times, warned that ‘the current ‘experimental’ approach’ of the company could result in problems ‘from minor to catastrophic.’
It was sent by the Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society, a 60-year-old trade group that aims to promote ocean technology and educate the public about it.
But it is unclear if any employee or Rush himself responded to the letter, and there was no further detail on why the approach was considered dangerous.
The so-called ‘adventure travel market’ is the key target of OceanGate, Rush said previously. ‘There’s a huge demand for unique travel experiences,’ he added
April 2018: Expedition canceled
Marc and Sharon Hagle said OceanGate canceled their June 2-9 expedition and rescheduled it to July 2019. Rush reassured them the trip would take place.
July 2018: Lawsuit lodged against former employee
OceanGate sued former Director of Marine operations for the Titan project, David Lochridge and his wife, Carole Reid Lochridge in Washington state.
They claimed Lochridge ‘desired to be fired’ and had shared confidential information with others and wiped a company hard drive.
The company said he ‘refused to accept the voracity of information’ about safety from Titan’s lead engineer.
August 2018: Lochridge files safety concern lawsuit
The Lochridges filed a counterclaim in the lawsuit, alleging a series of safety concerns about the Titan submersible.
Legal filings obtained by DailyMail.com show that he wrote a report in 2018 which was critical of the company’s research and development process for the vessel.
Lochridge also ‘strongly encouraged that OceanGate utilize a classification agency, such as the American Bureau of Shipping, to inspect and certify the Titan.’
The suit states that ‘OceanGate refused both requests, and stated it was unwilling to pay for a classification agency to inspect its experimental design.’
Lochridge ‘disagreed with OceanGate’s position to dive the submersible without any non-destructive testing to prove its integrity, and to subject passengers to potential extreme danger in an experimental submersible.’
OceanGate bosses fired David Lochridge, who was Director of Marine operations for the Titan project, in 2018 after it disagreed with his demand for more rigorous safety checks on the submersible, which is missing after a mission to the Titanic wreckage
November 2018: Case dismissed
Parties settled in the OceanGate v. Lochridge case.
April 2019: New Patent for object recovery
U.S. Patent Office assigned OceanGate a patent for systems to recover objects in aquatic environments.
June 2019: Expedition delay
OceanGate delayed its 2019 Titanic expedition and said it would take place in June 2020.
October 2019: Expedition in 2020 canceled
The Hagles received an email saying OceanGate had canceled its 2020 expedition.
January 2020: Raised $18million
OceanGate announced it has raised $18 million in equity financing, which it planned to use to expand its fleet of deep-sea submersibles to set the stage for 2021 dives to the Titanic.
February 2020: NASA to partner
NASA announced it would partner with OceanGate to develop and manufacture new carbon fiber pressure vessels at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama,
Since the tragedy the agency has tried to distance itself from the company, saying it only carried out remote consultations with the company which built and deployed Titan, and ‘did not provide any approvals for the project’.
NASA told DailyMail.com it had a Space Act Agreement with OceanGate, which allows it to work with an outside organization, and ‘consulted on materials and manufacturing processes for the submersible’.
But a spokesman added: ‘NASA did not conduct testing and manufacturing via its workforce or facilities, which were done elsewhere by OceanGate.’
March 2021: NASA Astronaut joins expedition
OceanGate and NASA astronaut and physician Dr. Scott Parazynski announced he would join the Titanic expedition.
Parazynski was featured on the promotional video for OceanGate Expeditions among other guests and crew members who gushed about the $250,000 experience that descends 12,500ft into the Atlantic Ocean.
He said: ‘It’s tougher to go to the bottom of the ocean than it is to the far side of the moon, we saw things that maybe human eyes have never seen before.’
NASA Astronaut Dr. Scott Parazynski raved about his journey thousands of feet below the ocean surface to view the Titanic wreckage just two months before a tourist sub went missing
According to the video, OceanGate Expeditions offers the once in a lifetime opportunity to be a specially trained crew member safely diving to the Titanic wreckage site
Parazynski, who has crewed five Space Shuttle flights and seven spacewalks, joined the Titanic Survey Expedition in 2021
May 2021: Explorer Josh Gates and Brian Weed go on test dive
Josh Gates and Brian Weed were invited to go on a test dive to the Titanic, ahead of Rush offering a ‘huge opportunity’ to film the wreckage.
Gates, the host of Discovery’s Expedition: Unknown, revealed that Titan did ‘not perform well’ during their dive.
He said: ‘Ultimately, I walked away from a huge opportunity to film Titanic due to my safety concerns with the OceanGate platform.’
Weed added that the experience left him with ‘a lot of misgivings’ as ‘there were several things about the sub’ that made him ‘feel very uneasy.’
June 2021: Patent for ‘launching and recovering objects’
A U.S. patent was issued to OceanGate for systems and methods for launching and recovering objects in aquatic environments.
Gates is pictured on the left aboard the Titan with Stockton Rush at the helm of the vessel as well as a cameraman
Paul-Henry Nargeolet is considered the world’s leading expert on the Titanic and also died on the sub
Scott Griffiths, Director of Logistics and Quality, is one of the leadership team who takes responsibility for all of the expeditions, according to his LinkedIn. Pictured on Titan
July 2021: First successful dive to the Titanic & communication issues
A team consisting of Rush, Scott Griffith and PH Nargeolet successfully completed their first submersible dive to the Titanic.
The company announced they would be launching a series of yearly expeditions to help record the Titanic’s rate of decay and map the artifacts found on the site.
Bill Price was one of the first paying passengers to get on the Titan, but struggled with ‘communication issues’ during one of their trips.
They had to abort the mission three-quarters of the way down, but Price was first to sign up for a second go the following day.
August 2021: German tourist brands Titan trip a ‘suicide mission’
Arthur Loibl, 60, called the voyage a ‘suicide mission’ after traveling down the ocean floor with the team in 2021.
Loibl recalls the first submarine they tried didn’t work and a second attempted dive had to be abandoned.
He said parts fell off and the mission went into the water five hours late due to electrical problems.
During his excursion the Titan took two-and-a-half hours to reach the bottom and then 20 minutes to reach the stricken ocean liner.
Speaking to AP he said: ‘The first submarine didn’t work, then a dive at 1,600 meters had to be abandoned.
‘My mission was the 5th, but we also went into the water five hours late due to electrical problems. It was a suicide mission back then!’
Speaking to German tabloid Bild, Loibl (pictured in front of the OceanGate sub) recalls that the first submarine they tried didn’t work, that a second attempted dive had to be abandoned, parts fell off, and that his mission went into the water five hours late due to electrical problems
German explorer Arthur Loibl, 60, dove the 12,500 feet to the Atlantic ocean wreck side in August 2021, and says he was ‘incredibly lucky’ to survive. He is pictured (right) on board with OceanGate’s CEO Stockton Rush (centre) and French explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet (left) who both died on the Titan
German explorer Arthur Loibl (right) is seen with French explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet
September 2021: A patent for monitoring integrity
OceanGate received a patent for systems for curing, testing, validating, rating and monitoring the integrity of composite structures.
November 2021: Tickets on sale for next expedition
OceanGate announced a 2022 expedition to Titanic, with price to ride rising to $250,000.
July 2022: Expedition encounters multiple difficulties
CBS correspondent David Pogue said the submersible got ‘lost on the seafloor’ for about five hours when he was on an OceanGate expedition to the Titanic’s resting place.
He was not on the Titan, and had stayed on the ship in a control room, adding: ‘They could still send short texts to the sub, but did not know where it was. It was quiet and very tense.’
Colin Taylor went on the submersible with his 22-year-old son, and described the communication system as ‘very difficult.’
He told NBC news: ‘There’s a text-based communication system that’s two-way, very slow,’ he said. ‘I mean, when you’re sending signals through that amount of water, it’s very, very difficult.’
Simpsons producer and writer Mike Reiss told ABC News he went on four 10-hour dives with OceanGate, including to the Titanic.
Mike Reiss, who was a producer and writer on The Simpsons, revealed that he is ‘not optimistic’ about the rescue of the five passengers on the Titan sub
Mexican actor Alan Estrada told DailyMail.com that the Titan submarine lost communication for two hours during the July 3, 2022 voyage to the Titanic wreck at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean
He added: ‘The sonar, the computers, the lights all stopped working. We went back to the surface immediately.’
The crews lost communication with the host ship each time. According to their summary of 2022 they completed seven dives to the wreck.
YouTuber Alan Estrada had been on board the missing Titan sub when the batteries of the sub suddenly drained during the expedition, forcing it to end early.
Estrada shared chilling details of how the Titan’s energy source quickly drained to 40 percent power during a July 2022 mission to see the ill-fated ocean liner.
February 2023: Couple sue CEO Stockton Rush for fraud
A Florida couple sued the CEO of Titanic tourism company OceanGate Expeditions, accusing him of misleading them about their trip to visit the wreck and refusing to refund their $210,258 when they complained.
Marc and Sharon Hagle, sued Rush in Orange County, Florida circuit court, alleging fraudulent inducement and violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
In 2016, while on a trip to the South Pole, they decided their next adventure would be underwater.
But they never got to take their trip, and in February this year sued Rush, accusing him of selling the adventure knowing it was not on schedule, and refusing to refund their cash.
The Hagles claim Rush, a Princeton-educated engineer and pilot with a MBA from Berkeley, traveled to their home in Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando, Florida, to convince them to buy in to his company.
CBS correspondent David Pogue is seen inside the submersible, which he described as very basic
Mr Pogue visited the Titanic on board a Titan sub last year
Marc Hagle, 74, and his wife Sharon, 73, went to space on Blue Origin’s fourth trip, in March 2022. They intended to visit the Titanic wreck with OceanGate, and paid in 2017, but sued in February this year for fraud
May 11 – 28, 2023: Missions 1 and 2 successfully completed by the Titan
Titan successfully completed the first and second dive with commercial passengers on the Titan as OceanGate thanks Starlink for making them a success.
Ocean Gate Expeditions tweeted a photo of 24 people on deck, saying: ‘It’s been an exciting week with our Mission 2 crew!’
June 2023: Mission 3 and Mission 4 successful
OceanGate tweeted: ‘Despite being in the middle of the North Atlantic, we have the internet connection we need to make our #Titanic dive operations a success – thank you @Starlink!’
June 17, 2023: British billionaire posts about dive
Hamish Harding, chairman of Action Aviation, posted on Facebook that he has joined OceanGate Expeditions for the Titan mission and will be on an attempted dive on June 18.
He said: ‘Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023.
‘A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow.
‘We started steaming from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada yesterday and are planning to start dive operations around 4am tomorrow morning. Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do.’
Among those taking part in the expedition is billionaire Hamish Harding (pictured), CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai. He excitedly posted to social media about being there on Sunday
June 18, 2023: Titan loses communication with Polar Prince
8:00am: The Titan began a descent from the Canadian research vessel the Polar Prince to the Titanic wreck 12,500ft below the ocean surface.
9.45am: Communications ceased between the Titan and its mothership, about 90 minutes into the trip. They would communicate with the mothership via text messages.
The US Navy found an ‘anomaly’ that was consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the vessel was operating when communications were lost.
3pm: The Titan failed to appear at the expected time for resurfacing.
5.40pm: OceanGate reported the 21-foot submersible, with five people on board, as overdue.
This is the last sighting of the submersible, Titan, which was launched on Sunday. It is seen in a photograph shared by Hamish Harding’s company. He and the four others onboard remains unaccounted for
The Boston Coast Guard is now looking for the missing vessel. The wreckage of the Titanic sits 12,500ft underwater around 370 miles from Newfoundland, Canada
June 19, 2023: Search and rescue mission got underway
The Coast Guard said one of its C-130 Hercules aircraft and crew, as well as a Canadian P8 aircraft with underwater sonar capability, were searching for the submersible.
A range of military and commercial vessels were also at the site, offering a mixture of search capabilities, including the Canadian P3.
The Canadian P-3 was one of several models of aircraft which were also helping the search by scouring the ocean surface and using sonar equipment for signs of activity on the seabed.
June 20, 2023: Hope flares after reports of ‘banging’
A Canadian P3 search aircraft detected sounds coming from underwater which were described as ‘banging’.
At a press conference on Wednesday, US Coast Guard First District response coordinator Jamie Frederick confirmed more of the sounds were heard.
Since the discovery of the submersible, it’s been confirmed that the noises heard were not SOS and not related to the submersible at all.
The Titanic wreckage is 12,500ft underwater – some 11,000ft deeper than many US and British Navy subs can dive
June 21, 2023: Search continues
Coast Guard reported a third C-130 was en route, as well as a Magellan ROV. The Navy was sending experts and a Deep Ocean Salvage System designed to lift underwater objects.
A team from France arrived to operate a remotely operated robot and a submarine deployed from the Atalante ship.
The boat can hold up to 30 technicians and scientists for up to 45 days, and both the devices on board are able to reach 6,000m (around 20,000ft) below sea level.
It has a manned submersible called Nautile and remote-operated vehicle Victor 6000 on board.
Nautile can dive to a depth of 20,000ft with a crew of three and is one of the very few manned deep-sea submarines.
It has three wide-angle viewports and LED searchlights provide a direct view of the seabed.
A dive on board the sub can last up to eight hours, of which six can be spent working at the sea floor.
The remote-operated Victor 600 is a deep-water ROV remotely operated by cable that can also go to depths of 20,000ft.
The Atalante – viewed as the final hope for the missing Titan sub – has arrived at the search site. It is dropping in a deep sea robot called the Victor 6000, shown at the stern of its mother vessel
June 22, 2023: Debris field located in search for sub
11.48am: The Coast Guard announced a debris field has been discovered by an ROV from the Horizon Arctic, found near the Titanic’s bow.
3pm: OceanGate announces that they believe the crew of the Titan has been lost.
OceanGate said in a statement: ‘We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost.
‘These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans.
‘Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.’
The company added: ‘This is an extremely sad time for our dedicated employees who are exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss.
‘The entire OceanGate family is deeply grateful for the countless men and women from multiple organizations of the international community who expedited wide-ranging resources and have worked so very hard on this mission.
‘We appreciate their commitment to finding these five explorers, and their days and nights of tireless work in support of our crew and their families.
As the search for the missing Titan submersible becomes increasingly desperate, some of the world’s most advanced underwater search equipment has been deployed to scour the depths of the Atlantic
Titan’s carbon fiber hull and its acrylic viewport were subject to several warnings and James Cameron singled them out as ‘potential failure points’ on the vessel
‘This is a very sad time for the entire explorer community, and for each of the family members of those lost at sea.
‘We respectfully ask that the privacy of these families be respected during this most painful time.’
3.15pm: The CoastGuard confirmed that pieces of the submersible were found 1,600ft from the bow of the Titanic. They added that those on board would have died instantly.
June 23, 2023: Transportation Safety Board of Canada launch probe
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is launching an investigation into the fatal incident.
A team of investigators is traveling to Newfoundland to gather information and conduct interviews.
In a statement TSB said: ‘In the coming days, we will coordinate our activities with other agencies involved.’
It said its investigation would be into the ‘fatal occurrence involving the Canadian-flagged vessel Polar Prince and the privately operated submersible Titan’.
The TSB added it will ‘conduct a safety investigation regarding the circumstances of this operation conducted by the Canadian-flagged vessel Polar Prince’.