The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Saturday it is investigating the loss of the Titan submarine. And the Titan’s mother ship, the Polar Prince, is talking to the crew.
The development comes as authorities from the US and Canada begin the process of investigating the cause of the underwater explosion and questions about who is responsible for determining how the tragedy unfolded.
Maritime officials are searching the area The ship was wrecked in the North Atlantic, killing all five on board. The debris was located about 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) underwater, several hundred feet away from the Titanic wreckage as it headed for exploration.
“We are conducting a safety investigation in Canada as this incident involved a Canadian-flagged vessel departing from a Canadian port and in international waters,” said Transportation Board Chair Cathy Fox. “Other agencies may choose to conduct investigations, and that’s up to them.”
The Polar Prince left Newfoundland on June 16, with the ill-fated Titan in tow. There were 41 people on board – 17 crew and 24 others – including five who died in the Titan explosion.
Fox said he understands international interests and that the TSB will share the information they collect with other agencies, such as the US National Transportation Safety Board and the US Coast Guard, within the limits of Canadian law. Voice recordings and witness statements are protected under Canadian law, he said.
“Our investigation will go where the evidence leads us,” he added. “We don’t want to duplicate efforts. We want to collaborate.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also announced Saturday that they have begun determining whether a full investigation is needed into the circumstances leading to Titan’s death. Officials said a full investigation would only take place if a criminal, federal or provincial law appears to have been violated.
The Coast Guard led the initial search and rescue mission, a major international effort that cost millions of dollars..
It’s not entirely clear who will have the authority to lead a complex investigation involving multiple countries. OceanGate Expeditions, the company Titan owns and operates, is based in the United States, but the submarine is registered in the Bahamas. OceanGate was located in Everett, Washington, but closed when Titan was discovered. Meanwhile, Titan’s mothership, Polar Prince, hailed from Canada, and those killed were from England, Pakistan, France and the United States.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday that the U.S. Coast Guard has declared the loss of the Titan submarine a “major marine casualty” and that the Coast Guard will lead the investigation.
It has not been confirmed that the Coast Guard will take the lead.
Deep-sea exploration promises to be long and arduous given the murky depths of the ocean.
“It’s an incredibly unforgiving environment at sea,” said Rear Adm. John Mauger of the Coast Guard’s First District.
How the overall investigation will proceed is complicated by the fact that the world of deep-sea exploration is not well regulated.
Titan remains the centerpiece of any investigation. Questions have been raised about whether the vessel was destined for disaster, given its unorthodox design and its builder’s refusal to submit to industry-standard independent checks.
The Titan is not registered as a US ship or with international organizations that regulate safety. And it’s not classified by the Maritime Industry Group, which sets standards on things like hull construction.
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, who was operating the Titan when it exploded, complained that restrictions could prevent progress.
“It’s abhorrent to rapid innovation that every innovation is brought up to speed by an outside company before it can be put to real-world testing,” Rush wrote in a blog post on his company’s website.
A question has been partially resolved as to when the explosion occurred. After the Titan was reported missing, sailors went back and analyzed its acoustic data and found an “anomaly” Sunday in the general vicinity of the ship operating when communications were lost, consistent with an explosion or explosion, senior U.S. Naval officer.
The Navy forwarded the information to the Coast Guard, which continued its search because the data was not considered conclusive, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive acoustic detection system.
Titan launched at 8 a.m. that day and was reported 435 miles (700 kilometers) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland that afternoon. Rescue crews rushed ships, planes and other equipment to the area.
Any remaining shred of hope that the crew would be found alive was dashed early Thursday when the Coast Guard announced that debris had been found near the Titanic.
Killed in the blast Rush, Shahjada Dawood and his son Sulaiman Dawood, both of a prominent Pakistani family; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Narjolet.
A flurry of lawsuits is expected, but filing them will be complicated and it’s unclear how successful they will be. Plaintiffs will face the problem of establishing jurisdiction.
At least 46 people aboard Oceangate’s submarine successfully traveled to the Titanic wreck site in 2021 and 2022, according to letters filed by the company in the U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia, which oversees matters related to the Titanic wreck.
But questions about the submarine’s safety have been raised by former company employees and former passengers.
LeBlanc reports from Boston. Associated Press writers in Washington Lolita C. Baldor; Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire; David Sharp, of Portland, Maine; and Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report.