OceanGate founder and CEO Stockton Rush College hired college interns to design the electrical systems for the ill-fated Titan submersible that killed him and four other people, according to an explosive new report.
Rush, who allegedly ignored safety warnings while charging wealthy tourists $250,000 for dives the Titanic shipwreck, hired the students from Washington State University to work on the critical systems, The New Yorker reported.
“The whole electrical system — that was our design, we implemented it, and it works,” a former intern told the college paper in February 2018, according to the mag.
“We are on the precipice of making history and all of our systems are going down to the Titanic. It is an awesome feeling!” he added.
Meanwhile, OceanGate’s former director of marine operations and chief pilot has said the Titan was a “lemon” and not safe to dive in 2018, The New Yorker also reported in its wide-ranging piece.
The ex-student, Mark Walsh, had been the treasurer of WSU’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers club when OceanGate’s director of engineering, Tony Nissen, described some of the company’s challenges, according to the school paper.
Walsh said that he and fellow student volunteered to offer solutions.
“Tony said, ‘OK, you’re hired,’” said Walsh, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in electrical engineering and then joined OceanGate full-time as the company’s electrical-engineering lead.
“If electrons flow through it, I’m in charge of it,” he told the WSU paper with a laugh, adding that he was leading a team of five, including Nelson and two WSU interns.
Nelson recommended senior Doug Yamamoto because of his software engineering experience, the WSU report said.
“I like that we have a close relationship with WSU Everett because the interns have been so great,” Walsh said. “They’ve been taught right at WSU Everett, so this summer we’re going to be hiring more.”
On June 22, WSU told local outlet The Everett Herald that “it does not have an alliance with OceanGate.
“We are aware that some of our graduates have worked at OceanGate. To our knowledge, one graduate currently works there. We are not privy to what OceanGate projects WSU Everett alumni have been involved in or what their roles may have been outside of publicly available information,” it added.
OceanGate also used interns from Everett Community College’s Ocean Research College Academy, but the school stopped offering internships with the company in 2019, according to the Herald.
Ardi Kveven, the academy’s academy’s founder and executive director, told the outlet that there was often a disconnect between the scientific community and explorers, who pushed the envelope.
The Post has reached out to OceanGate Expeditions for comment
Boeing and the University of Washington also have both denied being involved with OceanGate, which had repeatedly touted outside expertise in developing its Titan.
Rush had also namechecked Boeing as well as the University of Washington in a now-viral interview with CBS News in which he showed off how his submersible was run by a videogame controller.
The New Yorker also reported about David Lochridge, who was fired as OceanGate’s former head of marine operations after he raised concerns about the company’s testing methods.
In 2018, deep sea exploration specialist Rob McCallum contact Lochridge after his ouster.
“I’d be keen to pick your brain if you have a few moments,” McCallum e-mailed him, according to the mag. “I’m keen to get a handle on exactly how bad things are. I do get reports, but I don’t know if they are accurate.”
He added: “Stockton must be gutted. You were the star player . . . . . and the only one that gave me a hint of confidence.”
Lochridge reportedly replied: “I think you are going to [be] even more taken aback when I tell you what’s happening,” adding that he would share his opinion of the Titan in private but was afraid of retaliation from Rush because of his “influence and money.”
“That sub is Not safe to dive,” Lochridge wrote, according to The New Yorker.
“Do you think the sub could be made safe to dive, or is it a complete lemon?” McCallum reportedly replied. “You will get a lot of support from people in the industry. Everyone is watching and waiting and quietly shitting their pants.”
Lochridge responded: “It’s a lemon.”
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,” McCallum emailed, according to The New Yorker.
In 2018, Lochridge found “several critical aspects to be defective or unproven” with the Titan and wrote a detailed report outlining his concerns, including about the craft’s carbon-fiber hull, which experts now believe could have led to the implosion.
“Until suitable corrective actions are in place and closed out, Cyclops 2 (Titan) should not be manned during any of the upcoming trials,” he reportedly wrote.
Rush, who was “furious” with Lochridge’s report, called a meeting in which OceanGate leadership insisted that no hull testing was necessary, according to the mag.
Instead, an acoustic monitoring system would reportedly be used to detect fraying fibers to alert the pilot to the possibility of catastrophic failure “with enough time to arrest the descent and safely return to surface.”
But Lochridge’s lawyer wrote in a court filing that “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 New Yorker reported.
OceanGate’s lawyer wrote that “the parties found themselves at an impasse—Mr. Lochridge was not, and specifically stated that he could not be made comfortable with OceanGate’s testing protocol, while Mr. Rush was unwilling to change the company’s plan,” the mag said.
Lochridge was then fired.
Rush, 61, British billionaire Hamish Harding, 58, prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son, Sulaiman Dawood all perished in the June 18 disaster.