Rescuers probably won’t be able to recover the remains of the people who died in the Titan submersible implosions this week, an expert on remote operating vehicles said.
The risk is just too great.
“Now we know that human lives are not in danger, ROVs will document the debris as completely as they can. This is to gain a complete understanding of why the submersible failed, Dr. Brendan Englot of Stevens Institute for Artificial Intelligence told Insider.
The search has already cost millions of dollars — with taxpayers likely footing the bill — and Englot said that a recovery operation at such extreme depths would be “prohibitive in cost.”
Officials would need to devise a plan for how to secure cables to the separate objects, or how to float them to the surface, he said.
“This could pose a risk for the ROVs as well as the crews and ships operating them,” Englot said to Insider.
The five passengers on the Titan sub were British billionaire Hamish Harding, French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet, British businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, and the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions Stockton Rush.
The OceanGate vessel dove down on Sunday to view the wreckage of the Titanic, which is about 12,500 feet deep under the North Atlantic Ocean.
After an exhaustive search effort, US Coast Guard officials said Thursday that they had discovered debris that indicated a “catastrophic” implosion of the Titan’s pressure chamber. The authorities are investigating what occurred.
The debris was found about 1,600 feet away from the bow of the Titanic.
The Titan submersible had made three previous trips down to the wreckage. Less than 24 hours after Titan vanished, however, questions about its design and operation arose.
OceanGate, which operated the vessel, was previously warned about some of these concerns, according to a lawsuit. Rush, the company’s CEO who was on the Titan, also said in an interview in 2021 that he knew the company had “broken some rules” by foregoing conventional materials.
Submersibles are built to withstand high amounts of underwater pressure. But a faulty hull could have resulted in a leak that would cause the Titan to immediately implode under that level of pressure.
Aileen Maria Marty, a former naval officer and professor at Florida International University, told CNN that such an implosion would take a fraction of a millisecond.
“The whole thing would have fallen before anyone inside could even notice a problem,” Marty told CNN. “Ultimately, among the many ways in which we can pass, that’s painless.”
However, “Titanic” director and deep-sea explorer James Cameron told ABC that he believes the sub was trying to surface before it imploded — and that the people on board likely knew something was wrong before they were killed.