OceanGate, company behind missing Titanic tourist sub, once subject of lawsuit over safety complaints

OceanGate, the company behind the submersible that went missing while visiting the wreckage of the Titanic, was once the subject of a massive lawsuit from an employee who alleged he was fired because he had raised safety concerns over how deep the vessel could descend.  

The former OceanGate employee, David Lochridge, refused to greenlight manned tests of the submersible over safety concerns. The Washington-based company later sued Lochridge for disclosing confidential information. 

Lochridge then counter-sued, alleging that OceanGate had fired him for voicing his concerns about the vessel. 

Lochridge’s counterclaim states he used an inspection report that identified numerous issues that posed "serious safety concerns, and offered corrective action and recommendations for each." 

After Lochridge’s inspection report, OceanGate called a meeting that included the company’s CEO, human resources director, and engineering director. 

At the meeting, Lochridge discovered why he had been denied access to the viewport information from the engineering department: The viewport at the forward of the submersible was only built to a certified pressure of 1,300 meters – although OceanGate intended to take passengers down to depths of 4,000 meters, according to the complaint. 

The documents say Lochridge learned the viewport manufacturer "would only certify to a depth of 1,300 meters due to the experimental design of the viewport supplied by OceanGate, which was out of the Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy standards. 

"OceanGate refused to pay for the manufacturer to build a viewport that would meet the required depth of 4,000 meters," the complaint states.

"Rather than address [Lochridge’s] concerns or undergo corrective action to rectify and ensure the safety of the experimental Titan, or utilize a standard classification agency to inspect the Titan, OceanGate did the exact opposite – they immediately fired Lochridge," the counterclaim states. "OceanGate gave Lochridge approximately 10 minutes to clear out his desk and exit the premises." 

The New Republic was the first to report on the lawsuit.

The submersible Titan was reported overdue Sunday night about 435 miles south of St. John's, Newfoundland, according to Canada's Joint Rescue Coordination Center, spurring a desperate international rescue effort. Rescuers were racing against the clock because the oxygen supply could run out by approximately 6 a.m. Thursday.

The expedition was led by OceanGate, making its third voyage to the Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank in 1912, killing all but about 700 of the roughly 2,200 passengers and crew.

The five people on the vessel are OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, British businessman Hamish Harding, father-and-son Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, who are members of one of Pakistan’s most prominent families, and Paul-Henry Nargeolet, a former French navy officer who is considered a Titanic expert. 

The five-person submersible weighs 20,000 lbs. and is capable of diving 13,120 feet. The U.S. Coast Guard estimated Tuesday afternoon that the missing OceanGate Titan submarine should run out of breathable air by Thursday morning.

Fox News Digital has reached out to OceanGate for comment. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.