AceShowbiz - An OceanGate co-founder has spoken up in defense of the design of the Titan sub following James Cameron's criticism. After the filmmaker raised an issue with the safety of the doomed submersible, Guillermo Sohnlein, who co-founded the company in 2009 with CEO Stockton Rush, insisted that the vessel went through a "rigorous test program."
"I think one of the issues that keeps coming up is that everyone keeps equating certification with safety is ignoring the 14 years of development of the Titan sub," Sohnlein told BBC Radio 4's "Today" show on Friday, June 23. "Any expert who weighs in on this, including Mr. Cameron, will also admit that they were not there for the design of the sub, for the engineering of the sub, for the building of the sub, and certainly not for the rigorous test program the sub went through."
Sohnlein, who left OceanGate 10 years ago but still retains a minority stake, continued, "This was a 14-year technology program, and it was very robust and certainly led successful science expeditions to the Titanic even over the last three years."
In a Times Radio interview, Sohnlein also stressed that it would be "impossible" for anyone on the outside, including Cameron, to speculate on what happened to the ship. "It's impossible for anyone to really speculate from the outside," he said, adding, "I know from firsthand experience that we were extremely committed to safety and risk mitigation was a key part of the company culture."
On Thursday, Cameron weighed in on the Titan sub implosion that claimed the lives of its five passengers, comparing it to the Titanic shipwreck in 1912. "Many people in the [deep-submergence engineering] community were very concerned about this sub, and a number of you know of the top players in the community even wrote letters to the company, saying that what they were doing was too experimental to carry passengers and needed to be certified and so on," he told ABC News after all passengers of the sub were declared "lost" in a "catastrophic explosion."
"I'm 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," the 68-year-old said of the historic shipwreck, which inspired his 1997 romantic film "Titanic". "And many people died as a result."
Blaming OceanGate CEO Rush, who piloted the Titan sub, for the tragedy, he claimed, "And for a very similar tragedy, where warnings went unheeded to 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."
OceanGate announced on Thursday that they believe all five passengers had perished after debris was found near the actual Titanic wreckage. "We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost," they said in a statement.