In a 2017 video posted to his company’s YouTube channel, OceanGate Expeditions’ CEO Stockton Rush, who perished along with four passengers on the ill-fated Titan submersible in mid-June, described the glue holding the vessel together by comparing it to a popular food.
The 2017 video showed the submersible being put together as Rush asserted, “It’s pretty simple, but if we mess it up, there’s not a lot of room for recovery,”
Then he added, “The glue’s very thick, so it’s not like Elmer’s Glue; it’s like peanut butter.”
Rush had been warned years before the tragedy that his vessel was unsafe. David Lochridge, formerly the director of marine operations for Titan project, issued a 2018 engineering report in which he expressed reservations about the design and build of OceanGate’s submersible, but his concerns were reportedly dismissed. He found numerous problems with the vessel, including the carbon-fiber hull having “very visible signs of delamination and porosity,” the glue for ballast bags coming off, sealing faces with errant plunge holes, and O-ring grooves whose design was not standard, among many others, The New Yorker reported.
But when Lochridge brought up his concerns at a company meeting, he was fired.
“I would consider myself pretty ballsy when it comes to doing things that are dangerous, but that sub is an accident waiting to happen,” Lochridge wrote to Rob McCallum, who co-founded a company called Eyos Expeditions and had taken tourists to the Titanic years before. “There’s no way on earth you could have paid me to dive the thing. … I don’t want to be seen as a Tattle tale but I’m so worried he kills himself and others in the quest to boost his ego.”
“That sub is not safe to dive,” Lochridge warned McCallum.
“Do you think the sub could be made safe to dive, or is it a complete lemon?” McCallum asked. “You will get a lot of support from people in the industry . . . . everyone is watching and waiting and quietly s***ting their pants.”
“It’s a lemon,” Lochridge replied tersely.
Lochridge sent OSHA investigator Paul McDevitt an inspection report in the hope that the government might intervene, prompting McDevitt to contact OceanGate. OceanGate’s lawyer then reportedly issued Lochridge a court summons saying he had ten days to withdraw his claim and pay OceanGate almost ten thousand dollars in legal expenses or OceanGate would sue him, wreck his reputation, and accuse him of immigration fraud. Lochridge ultimately withdrew his whistle-blower claim.