By Yaron Steinbuch
The five people who perished aboard the OceanGate submersible were likely aware of the impending implosion between 48 and 71 seconds before it occurred, according to an expert who likened the scenario to a “horror movie.”
Spanish engineer and underwater expert José Luis Martín offered a timeline for the doomed Titan’s final moments before it was destroyed June 18 — less than two hours into its dive to the Titanic shipwreck.
“During the controlled immersion of the Titan, there must have been an electrical fault, which left the craft without thrust,” he told the Spanish news outlet NIUS, according to the English language Diario AS.
“Without thrust, the weight of the passengers and the pilot (about 400 kilograms), which was focused on the front end close to the view port, would have disrupted the Titan’s longitudinal stability,” Martín explained.
He said he believes the deadly malfunction occurred at a depth of about 5,500 feet.
“At this point, the submersible begins to fall headlong towards the seafloor, and with control and safety functions damaged, it can no longer be maneuvered,” Martín theorized in his report.
“The pilot (OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush) couldn’t activate the emergency lever to drop weights (and return to the surface),” the expert said, adding that the lever was an inadequate device for such an emergency.
“The Titan changes position and falls like an arrow vertically because the 400 kilos (880 pounds) of passengers that were at the porthole unbalance the submersible,” he wrote.
“Everyone rushes and crowds on top of each other. Imagine the horror, the fear, and the agony. It had to be like a horror movie,” added the expert, who believes that everything happened during 48 to 71 seconds of free fall.
During that time, the group was aware of the seriousness of the situation, he said.
“In that period of time, they are realizing everything. And what’s more, in complete darkness. It’s difficult to get an idea of what they experienced in those moments,” Martín wrote.
“As it fell to the depths of the ocean, the hull would have been subjected to a sudden increase in underwater pressure” — leading to a “powerful compression” of the sub’s carbon-fiber hull at a depth of around 9,000 feet, he continued.
The rapid contraction of the hull “would have been out of step with what was happening to the [acrylic] material of the viewport — leading to a micro-fissure and implosion,” Martín said.
“After those 48 seconds, or one minute, the implosion and instantaneous sudden death occurs,” the expert added.
Structural issues with the hull have been cited among the causes of the deadly implosion.
“It is difficult to say what caused the structural failure in this case, but any small material and geometric imperfection, misalignment of connection flanges, tightening torque of bolted connection may have started the structural collapse,” Brizzolara told The Post recently.
Brizzolara said carbon fiber is “very prone to possible defects” and that it “exhibits a more fragile behavior” than other materials.
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, all died in the disaster.
OceanGate has declined to comment since the tragedy and suspended all exploratory and commercial operations amid intense criticism of Rush for what some perceive as lax attitudes about safety that may have contributed to the accident.
In 2021, Rush said he would “like to be remembered as an innovator” during an interview with Mexican travel blogger Alan Estrada.
“I think it was Gen. [Douglas] MacArthur who said, ‘You’re remembered for the rules you break,’” he said. “You know I’ve broken some rules to make this [the Titan]. I think I’ve broken them with logic and good engineering behind me.”