The US Coast Guard has opened a massive probe after the tragedy of the doomed OceanGate Titan sub and said that recovering debris from the wreckage will be “the priority.”
A multi-agency Marine Board of Investigation has been convened to probe the cause of the fatal underwater mishap, with the search and rescue operation now officially over, Coast Guard officials said at a briefing Sunday.
“The priority of the investigation is to recover items from the sea floor,” Coast Guard Capt. Jason Neubauer, who is heading the investigation, told reporters.
“The resources are on site and capable of recovering the debris.”
Neubauer said that the accident site has been mapped out and they were also prepared to handle the possible discovery of any human remains.
“We are communicating with family members. I’m not going to get into details of the recovery operations, but we are taking all precautions on site if we are to encounter any human remains,” he said.
The days-long search for the doomed sub covered some 13,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean using 11 ships, five underwater crafts and four airborne search crews.
Neubauer said there is no timeline for the Marine Board investigation to conclude, but said the Coast Guard will not divulge its findings during the court of the probe.
The OceanGate Titan sub went into the water on June 18 and descended into the Atlantic Ocean with five passengers aboard headed to the wreckage of the doomed ocean liner.
Experts estimate that the tiny craft neared the 10,000-foot mark below the surface — 45 minutes into the expedition — when it lost communication with the mother ship, Polar Prince.
Initial reports of banging and tapping from the depths raised hopes that the occupants had survived.
However, the Coast Guard on Thursday announced that it found debris consistent with the Titan sub on Thursday, about 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic.
The five occupants — Sulaiman Dawood, 19, his tycoon father, Shahzada Dawood, 48, British billionaire Hamish Harding, 58, famed Titanic explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, and OceanGate founder and CEO, Stockton Rush, 61 — were killed in what officials called a “catastrophic implosion.”
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada announced on Saturday that it would examine voice recordings and other data from Titan to try to determine what happened to the doomed sub.
The TSB could also determine if there was any criminality involved but added that the purpose of the agency’s probe was not to point blame over the tragic mishap.
The Coast Guard said the Canadian board, along with their counterparts in the US, France the United Kingdom, will be among the many international agencies involved in the Marine Board review.
The board will eventually release its findings and make recommendations to avoid similar catastrophes in the future, officials said.
“We always answer the call,” Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said at Sunday’s briefing. “We conduct disciplined operations with warranted risks to put our resources and our lives at risk to save others. That’s who we are.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy announced on Sunday that it will not deploy its Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System, a large piece of salvage equipment, to attempt to retrieve the submersible.
With Post wires