According to an expert, the five individuals who lost their lives aboard the OceanGate submersible were likely aware of the impending disaster between 48 and 71 seconds before it happened, which was likened to a scene from a horror movie.Spanish engineer and underwater expert, José Luis Martín, provided a timeline for the final moments of the doomed Titan before it was destroyed on June 18 during its dive to the Titanic shipwreck, less than two hours into the mission.
Martín explained that a controlled immersion fault caused an electrical failure, resulting in the submersible losing its thrust. This loss of thrust, combined with the weight of the passengers and the pilot concentrated near the front view port (around 400 kilograms), disrupted the Titan’s longitudinal stability. The malfunction occurred at a depth of approximately 5,500 feet, causing the submersible to plunge headfirst towards the seafloor. With control and safety functions damaged, it became impossible to maneuver the vessel.
According to Martín’s report, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, who was piloting the submersible, was unable to activate the emergency lever to drop weights and resurface. The lever proved inadequate for such an emergency, and as a result, the Titan changed position and fell vertically like an arrow due to the unbalanced weight near the view port. Martín described the chaotic scene as people rushed and crowded on top of each other, comparing it to a horror movie. The expert estimated that this free fall and the awareness of the severity of the situation lasted between 48 to 71 seconds.
Martín noted that during the fall to the ocean depths, the sub’s hull experienced a sudden increase in underwater pressure, resulting in a powerful compression of the carbon-fiber material at a depth of around 9,000 feet. This rapid contraction of the hull, out of sync with the acrylic material of the view port, likely led to a micro-fissure and subsequent implosion.
The expert explained that after approximately 48 seconds or one minute, the implosion occurred, causing instantaneous and fatal consequences for everyone on board.
Structural issues with the hull were cited as a potential cause for the implosion. Virginia Tech ocean engineering professor Stefano Brizzolara suggested that a defect in the pressure hull may have fractured under the immense pressure. Small material and geometric imperfections, misalignment of connection flanges, or inadequate bolted connections could have triggered the structural collapse, according to Brizzolara.
Carbon fiber, the material used for the hull, is known to be prone to defects and exhibits more fragile behavior compared to other materials, Brizzolara added.
The expert also explained that even a small leak at extreme depths would result in water rushing in at a speed of about 620 mph, causing instant death for everyone on board.
The tragedy claimed the lives of OceanGate CEO and Titan pilot Stockton Rush (61), French Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet (77), British billionaire Hamish Harding (58), prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood (48), and his 19-year-old son, Sulaiman Dawood.
OceanGate has refrained from commenting since the incident and has suspended all exploratory and commercial operations due to intense criticism of Rush’s perceived lax attitudes toward safety, which may have contributed to the accident. In a 2021 interview with Mexican travel blogger Alan Estrada, Rush expressed his desire to be remembered as an innovator and acknowledged breaking some rules with logical and sound engineering behind him, citing a quote by General Douglas MacArthur: “You’re remembered for the rules you break.”
** Taking a lead from The NYP