Officials from the US Coast Guard confirmed on Tuesday that a salvage mission successfully recovered the remaining debris from the OceanGate Titan submersible. The 22-foot-long vessel suffered an implosion en route to the Titanic almost four months ago. Five passengers died during the privately funded, $250,000-per-seat voyage intended to glimpse the historic tragedy’s remains, including OceanGate’s CEO and Titan pilot, Stockton Rush.
According to the Coast Guard’s October 10 press release, salvage efforts were underway via an agreement with the US Navy Supervisor of Salvage & Diving following initial recovery missions approximately 1,600-feet away from the Titanic wreckage. Searchers discovered and raised the remaining debris on October 4, then transferred them to an unnamed US port for further analysis and cataloging. The US Coast Guard also confirmed “additional presumed human remains” were “carefully recovered” from inside the debris, and have been sent for medical professional analysis.
[Related: OceanGate confirms missing Titan submersible passengers ‘have sadly been lost’.]
OceanGate’s surface vessel lost contact with the Titan submersible approximately 105 minutes into its nearly 2.5 mile descent to the Titanic on June 18. Frantic, internationally coordinated search and rescue efforts scoured over 10,000 square surface miles of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the North Atlantic ocean floor. On June 22, OceanGate and US Coast Guard representatives confirmed its teams located remains indicative of a “catastrophic implosion” not far from the voyage’s intended destination.
Submersible experts had warned of such “catastrophic” issues within Titan’s design for years, and repeatedly raised concerns about OceanGate’s disregard of standard certification processes. In a March 2018 open letter to the company obtained by The New York Times, over three dozen industry experts, oceanographers, and explorers “expressed unanimous concern” about the submersible’s “experimental” approach they believed “could result in negative outcomes (from minor to catastrophic) that would have serious consequences for everyone in the industry.”
“Your [safety standard] representation is, at minimum, misleading to the public and breaches an industry-wide professional code of conduct we all endeavor to uphold,” reads a portion of the 2018 letter.
Although salvage efforts have concluded, the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) plans to continue conducting evidence analysis alongside witness interviews “ahead of a public hearing regarding this tragedy.” A date for the hearing has not yet been announced, although as The Washington Post notes, the Coast Guard could recommend new deep-sea submersible regulations, as well as criminal charges to pursue.
OceanGate announced it suspended “all commercial and expedition operations” on July 6.