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‘People should still be able to view Titanic wreck’, killed diver’s friend says

A friend of one of the five people killed on the doomed Titan submersible has said people should still be allowed to visit the wreck of the Titanic. British businessman Hamish Harding, father and son Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, OceanGate Expeditions’ chief executive Stockton Rush and French dive expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet were killed on the sub during a voyage to the shipwreck.

James P. Delgado, in an interview with The Times, has said despite what happened it is not wrong to continue taking people to the wreck, which lies 12,000 feet at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

He told the publication: “Have we seen enough on the Titanic? Possibly. Should people still go? If it’s done right and safely, I don’t think taking people there is wrong.”

Mr Delgado, who has himself been down to 100 shipwrecks, was a friend of Mr Nargeolet, a former French navy officer who was considered a Titanic expert after making multiple trips to the wreckage over several decades.

Asked if he would have gone onboard the Titan, Mr Delgado said: “No, but then I promised my wife a long time ago, no more subs.”

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The diver told the daily how previous visits to the wreck of the Titanic had profoundly changed him, adding that nobody he knows who has been down to the site fails to come back with “sobering” views because it is possible to see so clearly what happened when the liner went down.

Mr Delgado joined a voyage in 2000 to document a then-unexplored area around the ship’s stern.

He suggested the trip was carried out in a respectful manner with prayers and moments of reflection on the voyage, which also saw tourists on board who contributed to the findings.

The doomed Titan sub lost contact with the tour operator OceanGate Expeditions an hour and 45 minutes into a two-hour long descent to the wreckage, with the vessel reported missing eight hours after communication was lost.

Tickets per passenger for trips to the wreck with the firm cost almost £200,000 ($250,000).

Wreckage from the vessel was recovered from the ocean floor near the Titanic after the fatal implosion.

The parent company of the Titan was forced to defend its operations from a number of critics, including James Cameron who directed the film Titanic.

Guillermo Sohnlein, co-founder of OceanGate Expeditions, said last month there are regulations in place surrounding submersibles but they are “sparse” and “antiquated”.

Mr Cameron, who is a submersibles expert and has completed deep sea dives, told the BBC: “We now have another wreck that is based on, unfortunately, the same principles of not heeding warnings.”

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Mr Sohnlein defended the safety of the submersible, saying he and his co-founder Stockton Rush were committed to safety during expeditions.

He told Times Radio: “He was extremely committed to safety. He was also extremely diligent about managing risks, and was very keenly aware of the dangers of operating in a deep ocean environment.

“So that’s one of the main reasons I agreed to go into business with him in 2009.”

Mr Sohnlein, who no longer works for the company, continued: “I know from first-hand experience that we were extremely committed to safety and safety and risk mitigation was a key part of the company culture.”

Explaining the regulations surrounding visiting the Titanic wreckage, he said: “The regulations are pretty sparse. And many of them are antiquated, or they’re designed for specific instances. So it’s kind of tricky to navigate those regulatory schemes.”

The US Coast Guard has said it hopes its investigation into what happened to the vessel will lead to measures which will improve the safety of submersibles.

Government agencies in the US and Canada are also taking part in the investigation.

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