OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush wanted to be remembered as an innovator — someone who broke the rules to push the limits of deep sea exploration. In a 2021 interview with the Spanish YouTuber alanxelmundo that’s now making the rounds online, he paraphrases Gen. Douglas MacArthur, enthusing that “you’re remembered for the rules you break.”
Of course, the executive had no way of knowing the sad irony to this proclamation, as OceanGate’s tragic Titanic submersible implosion — an accident that killed its five occupants, including Rush, the Coast Guard said Thursday — brought his company’s cost-cutting, certification-dodging innovations under renewed scrutiny.
“I’d like to be remembered as an innovator,” Rush said in the 2-year-old YouTube interview. “I think it was Gen. MacArthur said, ‘You’re remembered for the rules you break.’ And, you know, I’ve broken some rules to make this. I think I’ve broken them with logic and good engineering behind me, the carbon fiber and titanium — there’s a rule you don’t do that. Well, I did.”
The materials he mentions in the clip are in reference to the fact that the submersible, called the Titan, had a hull constructed with aerospace-grade carbon fiber rather than submersibles’ traditional implementation of steel or titanium hulls.
“It’s picking the rules that you break that are the ones that will add value to others and add value to society,” Rush said in the interview. “And that really, to me, is about innovation.”
His practice, and specifically his embrace of the carbon fiber hull, have been widely credited as the potential variable that led to the Titan’s implosion on Sunday while diving to tour the Titanic wreckage.
“Titanic” filmmaker James Cameron, who himself is a deep sea exploration expert and innovator, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday that he believed that there were several potential points of failure, but that he would “put money” on the fact that the hull material was “the Achilles heel of the sub.” He said that the carbon fiber composite cylinder was a “flawed idea” and a “critical failure” because composites for vessels that see external pressure “are terrible” and was “aviation thinking for a deep-submergence engineering problem.”
Cameron joins a list of industry professional that as far as back as 2018 have publicly denounced OceanGate’s practice.
Watch a clip from Rush’s interview in the video above.