In 2018, a lawsuit was filed that could provide insights into the devastating implosion of the OceanGate Titan submersible, resulting in the tragic deaths of its five passengers.
The experimental vessel went missing on June 18th, leading to a large-scale search and rescue operation. Investigators concluded that the submersible experienced a catastrophic implosion, instantly claiming the lives of everyone on board.
The victims included OceanGate CEO and co-founder Stockton Rush, father and son Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, British billionaire Hamish Harding, and French diving expert Paul-Henry Nargeolet.
During the legal proceedings, OceanGate accused former employee David Lochridge of leaking confidential information, prompting the company to file a lawsuit.
In response, Lochridge countersued, alleging wrongful termination after raising legitimate safety concerns about the submersible.
The legal document highlights several potential flaws in the submersible's design and operation.
Although the case was eventually dismissed in 2018 following settlement discussions, it offers valuable insights into safety concerns raised by submarine expert Lochridge and sheds light on the possible factors contributing to the fatal incident that led to the destruction of the Titan.
Lochridge, recognized for his extensive experience as a submarine pilot and expertise in identifying flaws and vulnerabilities in subsea equipment, relocated his family from Scotland to Washington to work for OceanGate.
At Rush's request, Lochridge conducted an inspection of the new craft.
According to the legal documents, Lochridge was chosen for the task because he was considered the most qualified. His subsequent report identified numerous safety issues that warranted serious concern.
One significant concern highlighted was the absence of non-destructive testing on the sub's hull, with only an acoustic monitoring system in place to detect hull deterioration shortly before the submersible was at risk of failure.
"Lochridge again expressed concern that this was problematic because this type of acoustic analysis would only show when a component is about to fail - often milliseconds before an implosion - and would not detect any existing flaws prior to putting pressure onto the hull," the document states.
"Non-destructive testing was critical to detect such potentially existing flaws in order to ensure a solid and safe product for the safety of the passengers and crew."
Additionally, the report highlights that "the viewport at the forward of the submersible was only built to a certified pressure of 1,300 meters, although OceanGate intended to take passengers down to depths of 4,000 meters."
"Lochridge learned that the viewport manufacturer would only certify to a depth of 1,300 meters due to the experimental design of the viewport supplied by OceanGate."
Furthermore, according to the report, the "paying passengers would not be aware, and would not be informed, of this experimental design, the lack of non-destructive testing on the hull, or that hazardous flammable materials were being used within the submersible."
Lochridge allegedly advised OceanGate to pursue independent safety inspection to ensure the experimental Titan's safety.
However, the company reportedly terminated Lochridge's employment instead. He claims he was given only 10 minutes to clear his desk and leave the premises.
A comprehensive investigation has been launched involving participants from the USA, Canada, UK, and France. Their objective is to determine the cause of the Titan's destruction, gather all relevant information, and provide final conclusions and recommendations.
The investigation will also consider whether civil or criminal actions will be pursued.