Billionaire plans dive to Titanic following tragic OceanGate submersible implosion that killed 5 passengers


An Ohio billionaire is preparing to launch a voyage to the wreckage of the Titanic buried deep under the sea — less than a year after the Titan submersible catastrophically imploded on its descent to the infamous icon, killing five passengers on board.

Larry Connor, a real estate, tech entrepreneur and explorer who has been to the International Space Station and the deepest parts of the ocean, is the brains behind the voyage.

He’s working with Triton Submarines to build a new submersible to travel down to the Titanic’s tomb in a bid to renew confidence in deep sea exploration.

“This was a terrible disaster but in our opinion an avoidable one,” Connor said regarding last June’s OceanGate disaster in an interview with NBC’s “TODAY” Show that aired Friday morning. “If done correctly, we can demonstrate worldwide that this type of exploration in submersible is safe.”

The Titan submersible built by Seattle-based company OceanGate imploded on its Titanic voyage last June, instantly killing its CEO Stockton Rush and four other passengers on board. The company was heavily criticized over its lack of testing and use of experimental materials, including its carbon fiber composite hull. One month later, Ocean Gate suspended its operations. Investigations are still underway into the fatal disaster.

The OceanGate Titan submersible. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)The OceanGate Titan submersible. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)

The OceanGate Titan submersible. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)

That voyage down to the wreck is a perilous one as it’s located roughly 13,000 feet under sea level where water pressure is hundreds of times greater than the surface.

“These can be dangerous conditions,” Connor said. “We are going to go through multiple steps, multiple certifications, to ensure that this vessel and, specifically the hull is safe and sound.”

Bart Kemper, a mechanical engineer who was among those who expressed concern over OceanGate prior to the Titan implosion, says he trusts Triton Submarines.

“The big difference here is that we’re using proven technology that’s still innovative, but has been done the right way,” he explained.

When asked if he’d go on the mission, he said: “Oh yeah, in a heartbeat. Sign me up.”

Connor stressed safety will make the biggest difference with this new submersible — an effort to abate fears and concerns over the deep sea travel. He said the project won’t be rushed and will have DNV certification, which is done by one of the world’s leading certification bodies based in Norway.

OceanGate said its Titan vessel wasn’t classed by an independent group that sets safety standard in a blog post in February 2019.

“If you’re asking — are we confident we can do it safely? The answer’s yes,” Connor said.

The new estimated $13 to $15 million submersible — that will be named The Explorer — is still being built with a goal to commence research dives by summer of 2026. Connor plans for the research dives to go down with two pilots, himself and Triton Submarines co-founder and CEO Patrick Lahey.

However, if any safety concerns are raised, that date will change or the project altogether will be scrubbed, Connor said.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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