The families of the five expedition members who set out to visit the wreck of the Titanic were in mourning on Friday after news of the implosion of their small scientific tourism submarine amid growing criticism of potential neglect.
James Cameron, film director titanic and passionate seabed explorer, denounced the “ignored warnings” about safety, saying he was “struck by the similarity with the disaster” of the famous ship on the American chain ABC News.
“I was involved in the early stages of the development program” at OceanGate, and “we were extremely committed to security,” retorted on Times Radio Guillermo Söhnlein, co-founder of the company with the American Stockton Rush, died in the implosion of the submersible.
“Risk mitigation was a key part of the company culture,” he said.
Mr Söhnlein, who left the company in 2013, recalled that James Cameron himself had visited the wreck many times to produce his 1997 planetary hit.
On the BBC, William Kohnen, an engineer at the head of a US committee on manned submersibles bringing together companies and researchers, said his group had raised concerns about the Titan developed by OceanGate. But according to him, the company was “unwilling” to undergo a certification process.
For their part, the relatives of the rich Pakistani-British businessman and his son, who died with the three other passengers, expressed their “deep sorrow”.
Shahzada Dawood, 48, and her son Suleman, 19, were part of a family that founded one of Pakistan’s most successful industrial empires.
Another bereaved family is that of British businessman Hamish Harding, 58, who paid tribute to the aviation magnate in a statement, saying he was a “passionate explorer” as well as a “loving husband and a devoted father to his two sons”.
The former diver and navy soldier, Frenchman Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, nicknamed “Mr. Titanic”, was also on board the submersible.
After four days of extensive search that captivated the United States and abroad, the United States Coast Guard and expedition organizer OceanGate announced Thursday that all five passengers of the submersible had died in the “catastrophic implosion of the device.
“The debris field” found by the search robots near the mythical wreck, by nearly 4000 meters deep, “is compatible with a catastrophic implosion” of the submersible, declared, for his part, Rear Admiral John Mauger of the United States Coast Guard.
He spoke of a “catastrophic loss” of pressure at the origin of the accident.
Barely the outcome of this tragedy known, the Wall Street Journal revealed Thursday evening that the US Navy had detected on Sunday, shortly after the loss of contact with the device, a signal indicating the probable implosion of the submersible.
“These men were true explorers who shared a spirit of adventure and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the planet’s oceans,” OceanGate said, saying “mourn the loss of human life.”
US Rear Admiral Mauger offered his “sincere condolences” to the families of the missing.
On the London side, which lost three nationals, Foreign Minister James Cleverly deplored the “tragic news” on Twitter and expressed his government’s “support” and “deep condolences” to the families.
Surveillance using C-130 or P3 aircraft, ships equipped with underwater robots: the United States and Canada had still deployed means Thursday morning in the North Atlantic, off the two countries, where the Polar Prince, the ship from which the small tourist submarine left on Sunday.
The surface search area was 20,000 square kilometers.
Paris had dispatched the Atalante, a ship from the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) equipped with a robot capable of diving to the wreck of the Titanic.
The Titan, about 6.5 meters long, had plunged on Sunday and was due to resurface seven hours later but contact was lost less than two hours after its departure. The machine had a theoretical autonomy of 96 hours of oxygen.
On Wednesday, however, there was still hope.
Canadian P-3 planes had detected noises under water, but their origin had a priori no link with the submersible.
Over the course of research this week, information implicating OceanGate has come to light on possible technical negligence of the underwater tourism device.
A civil complaint in the United States in 2018 shows that a former company executive, David Lochridge, was fired after raising serious doubts about the safety of the submersible.
According to this former director of marine operations, a large porthole at the front of the device was designed to withstand the pressure experienced at 1300 m depth and not at 4000 m.
For $250,000 a seat, passengers embarked on an exploration of the remains of what was one of the greatest maritime disasters of the 20th century.e century, with nearly 1,500 deaths.
Since the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, scientists, treasure seekers and wealthy tourists have visited it, thus maintaining the myth.