UPDATED, June 23 2:40 p,.m. ET: OceanGate Expeditions co-founder Guillermo Söhnlein has pushed back against James Cameron's assertion the submersible craft was "too experimental to carry passengers."
In an interview with Times Radio, as seen below, Söhnlein was asked directly to address Cameron's comments about the vessel, which suffered an implosion during its fatal voyage to the Titanic shipwreck.
"I know one of the things that Mr. Cameron said, which is also very correct, is that the deep ocean exploration community is extremely small," he said. "There aren't that many of us in the world that do this work. We all know each other. I think in general we all respect each other. But as you would expect in this kind of community, there are completely different opinions and views about how to do things, how to design submersibles, how to engineer them, how to build them, how to operate in the dives."
Söhnlein said that he wasn't part of the design, engineering, building, or testing process of the Titan submersible, but he was involved in earlier submarines from the company. "I know from firsthand experience that we were extremely committed to safety and safety and risk mitigation was a key part of the company culture," he said.
During the interview, he was also asked about whether there are many regulations in place regarding the use of submersibles, specifically in regard to trips to the Titanic shipwreck. "There are regulations in place, but as you can imagine, there aren't that many subs that go that deep," he said. "So the regulations are pretty sparse and many of them are antiquated, or they're designed for specific instances. So it's kind of tricky to navigate those regulatory schemes."
There's been discussion about whether trips down to the Titanic are appropriate since so many people died in its sinking, but Söhnlein said, "that'd also be a great question for Mr. Cameron because as you pointed out, he's been down there 30 times." He suggested that Cameron would reflect his opinion that these trips are not "joyrides" and that everyone going down there is doing so "to preserve the memories and to document the grave site itself."
See original story below.
Shortly after debris from the submersible was discovered and the deaths of its passengers were confirmed, the award-winning filmmaker compared the disappearance to the events of the tragic Titanic sinking.
“People in the community were very concerned about this sub,” Cameron said. “A number of the top players in the deep submergence engineering community even wrote letters to the company, saying that what they were doing was too experimental to carry passengers and that it needed to be certified."
Cameron, who has made 33 trips to the Titanic, explained that he was "struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship, and yet he steamed at full speed into an ice field on a moonless night and many people died as a result."
He called it a "very similar tragedy where warnings went unheeded," adding that "take place at the same exact site with all the diving that’s going on all around the world, I think it’s just astonishing. It’s really quite surreal.”
Cameron directly spoke about Paul-Henri “PH” Nargeolet, the French explorer who was in the submersible and who Cameron said he's known for 25 years.
“PH, the French legendary submersible dive pilot was a friend of mine,” Cameron said. “You know, it’s a very small community. I’ve known PH for 25 years, and for him to have died tragically in this way is almost impossible for me to process.”
Cameron's interview was aired shortly after OceanGate Expeditions shared an unfortunate update on the rescue mission. The company said its team believes all five people — company CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Nargeolet — had "sadly been lost."
The passengers began their descent to the Titanic wreckage on Sunday and lost contact with the mother ship less than two hours into their journey. The United States and Canadian coast guards launched a massive search-and-rescue operation in the Atlantic Ocean. The crews raced against time, as the submersible reportedly had 96 hours of oxygen supply for five people.
On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed they had found debris near the Titanic wreckage, which indicates that the Titan likely imploded before oxygen ran out.
"These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans," OceanGate said in a statement. "Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time."