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Search for Missing Titanic Tourism Sub Enters Day 5

ATLANTIC OCEAN: The search continues for a tourist submersible that lost contact with its ship while on a visit to the wreckage of the Titanic on Sunday morning. On board the OceanGate Expeditions sub, named ‘Titan’, are five passengers including a Pakistani businessman and his 19-year-old son, a French diving expert, a British billionaire, and OceanGate founder, Stockton Rush. The expedition costs $250,000 per person and is marketed as “adventure travel.”

Contact was lost about an hour and 45 minutes into its descent towards the wreck of the Titanic, which rests on the ocean floor 4,000 meters below. The vessel was equipped with dissolvable sandbags which theoretically should have detached from the sub after 14 hours, allowing it to return to the surface even if those on board were unconscious. It is possible the white submersible is on the surface of the Atlantic, blending in with the crested white waves and nearly impossible to find. The vessel is sealed from the outside, so even if it is at the surface, passengers cannot exit themselves. The US Coast Guard reported underwater noise in the search area on Tuesday. CNN, citing a US government memo, reported that “banging sounds” could be heard about every 30 minutes, although the source of the sounds has not been determined. With enough oxygen to last 96 hours, or until Thursday afternoon, it has become unlikely that the vessel will be found in time to save the passengers.

The situation has sparked conversations about the importance of regulations. The vessel operates in international waters, which means there is no oversight or inspection from any governmental body. Driven with a Bluetooth PlayStation controller and a touchscreen, a CBS reporter noted that the company had “cut corners” in the submersible’s construction when he did a story on the expeditions last year. OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush said that “every submersible is a prototype” and defended the vessel’s integrity when it came to more important features related to passenger safety. This is the first time in the company’s three years that a ship has lost contact with a submersible, which is not equipped with the technology to track its own location.

In 2018, Ocean Gate’s director of marine operations, David Lochridge, wrote an engineering report that called for more testing as passengers could be endangered at extreme depths. The company then sued him for nondisclosure violations, to which he countersued for wrongful firing because of his raising safety concerns. A settlement was reached out of court.

PHOTO: Rauters

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