The victims aboard the ill-fated OceanGate submersible likely realized their impending fate between 48 and 71 seconds before their deaths, painting a horrifying picture reminiscent of a “horror movie,” according to Spanish engineer and underwater expert José Luis Martín.
Martín provided a timeline for the final moments of the doomed Titan submersible before it was destroyed on June 18 during its dive to the Titanic shipwreck. He suggested that an electrical fault occurred during the controlled immersion, causing the craft to lose thrust and disrupting its longitudinal stability. Martín theorized that this malfunction happened at a depth of approximately 5,500 feet, causing the submersible to plummet uncontrollably towards the seafloor.
The expert noted that the pilot, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, was unable to activate the emergency lever to drop weights and resurface. The lever was deemed inadequate for such a dire emergency. As a result, the Titan changed position and fell vertically due to the unbalanced weight of the passengers near the viewport. Martín described the scene as horrifying, with everyone rushing and crowding on top of each other.
During the 48 to 71 seconds of free fall, the group was fully aware of the severity of the situation, experiencing unimaginable horror and fear in complete darkness. Martín explained that as the submersible descended further into the ocean depths, the sudden increase in underwater pressure caused a powerful compression of the sub’s carbon-fiber hull at around 9,000 feet. This rapid contraction, out of sync with the acrylic viewport, likely resulted in a micro-fissure and implosion.
Martín stated that after those tense seconds, the implosion occurred, leading to instant and tragic deaths for all onboard. Structural issues with the hull have been identified as potential causes of the implosion, with suggestions that a defect in the pressure hull may have fractured under immense pressure.
Virginia Tech ocean engineering professor Stefano Brizzolara highlighted the vulnerability of carbon fiber to defects and its more fragile behavior compared to other materials. Any small leak at extreme depths would have resulted in water rushing in at an astonishing speed, instantly killing everyone aboard.
The victims of the tragedy included OceanGate CEO and Titan pilot Stockton Rush, French Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, British billionaire Hamish Harding, prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, and his son Sulaiman Dawood.
OceanGate has refrained from commenting on the incident and has suspended all exploratory and commercial operations in response to intense criticism of Rush’s safety practices. Some have questioned his lax attitudes, which may have contributed to the accident. In a previous interview, Rush expressed a desire to be remembered as an innovator who broke the rules, relying on logic and sound engineering practices.
The investigation into the structural failure and the tragic events that unfolded during the dive continues, as experts analyze the sequence of events and potential causes of the implosion.