A RELATIVE of two Titanic survivors says she has been struck by the eerie similarities between the ship’s infamous deadly voyage and the tragic implosion of a submarine that vanished near its wreckage.
Shelley Binder, whose great-grandmother Leah Aks and great-uncle F. Phillip Aks survived the 1912 disaster, told The U.S. Sun she felt as though history had come “full circle” when she first heard about OceanGate’s missing Titan submersible, which vanished on Sunday with five people on board.
“I’m really thinking about those five gentlemen and their families,” said Binder, a retired music professor, and avid Titanic historian.
“But I guess what struck me, oddly, was the similarities between the Titanic and what my great-grandmother must’ve felt, and what these people must’ve felt.
“She boarded on April 10  and she was on her own for the first time, which a 10-month-old baby, almost unimaginably excited and not knowing what she was going to face or experience.
“She got on the ship and had a wonderful time, and in her [diary] she talks about going to a party on the 14th. So she went from the highest high to in just a couple of hours fighting desperately for her life.
“And it struck me because it’s an eerily similar situation to what these gentlemen must’ve experienced; they would’ve been unimaginably excited about stepping into the somewhat unknown, only in short order to be faced with a terrifying and excruciating experience and fighting for their lives.
“And it’s all happening in the exact same place […] and it suddenly occurred to me that this was history reliving itself.”
OceanGate’s Titan sub was missing for more than four days before remnants of the vessel were found 1,600ft away from the Titanic’s bow on Thursday morning.
At a press conference attended by The U.S. Sun on Thursday, investigators said the discovery was consistent with a “catastrophic implosion” of the vehicle, which likely happened around the time the Titan lost contact with its mothership at 9.45am on Sunday.
All five passengers aboard the vessel were confirmed dead.
They were named as OceanGate CEO and founder Stockton Rush; British Billionaire Hamish Harding; the legendary French diver Paul-Henry Nargeolet; British-based Pakistani tycoon Shahzada Dawood, and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood.
Officials were unable to confirm whether recovery of their remains will be possible.
I’m struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship and yet he steamed at full speed into an ice field.
Rush’s OceanGate has only been providing tours of the Titanic site since 2021, charging guests up to $250,000 per head to catch a haunting first-hand glimpse of the so-called “unsinkable ship”.
Its prized Titan vessel was billed by the company as the new frontier of deep-sea exploration and designed with the help of engineers from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
More than a century earlier, after its unveiling, the Titanic was also considered to be a high-tech marvel, in addition to being billed as the safest ship ever built.
Binder’s great-grandmother, Leah, was 18 and a new mother when she boarded the ship in Southampton, UK, on April 10, 1912.
With only her 10-month-old son for company, Leah, a Polish immigrant, was heading to meet her husband, Sam Aks, in America where they hoped for a better life.
Sam had left the U.K. for the U.S. three months earlier on the Cymric, but Leah stayed behind because her family insisted that she had to wait for the Titanic, believing it to be an unsinkable ship.
She bought a ticket for the Titanic’s maiden voyage in third-class passage, but within four days disaster would strike: the Titanic struck an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland and began to sink.
Somewhere within the frantic melee that erupted that evening, Binder’s great-grandmother became separated from her son.
Eventually, she was able to traverse a “human ladder”, Binder said, and climb onto a rescue vessel named the Carpathia, believing her young son was dead.
By way of a miracle, somehow Phillip survived. He has also been placed onto the vessel with another woman who was looking after him.
Leah was reunited with baby Phil in the Carpathia’s hospital ward.
Along the way, Madelaine Astor—wife of millionaire John Jacob Astor—gave Leah a scarf to use as a blanket to keep the baby warm.
Leah and her son Phillip were among the 712 survivors of the Titanic. 1496 other women, children and men died, freezing to death or downing in the mercilessly cold North Atlantic waters.
After safely arriving in the U.S., Binder says her great-grandmother had a “nervous collapse” and was in and out of the hospital for the next 11 months, traumatized by the horrors she’d witnessed.
She would continue to be plagued by that trauma right up until her death in 1967, confessing to her son a few years prior that she still had nightmares about the sound of “people struggling and dying in the water.”
“She was completely devastated by this, tortured by this, and that stayed with her for the rest of her life,” said Binder.
“And, you know, I think there are going to be people in the future that knew these gentlemen that are going to be having nightmares about how they died.
“Both of these things are horrific […] and what strikes me is these men and my great-grandmother went from the highest high to something you’re not expecting, that leads you to an emotion you could never anticipate or imagine because it is unimaginable.
“I’m sure those men signed huge waivers and they knew they were facing a thrilling adventure.
“In 1912, and to this day, it’s a very dangerous thing to cross the North Atlantic. The prospect of it was terrifying to my great-grandma, combined with moving to a new place and leaving all of her family behind.
“Of course, there are lots of differences, but this really does feel like a full-circle moment.”
Sharing Binder’s view is James Cameron, the director of the 1997 movie Titanic, who called the sub explosion at the site of the wreckage “quite surreal.”
“I’m struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship and yet he steamed at full speed into an ice field,” he told ABC News.
BRACING FOR SANCTIONS
Just as in the wake of the Titanic disaster, where government hearings in the U.S. and the U.K. led to sweeping changes in Maritime law, Binder says she anticipates something similar occurring in the wake of the OceanGate tragedy.
She explained: “In 1912, the Titanic had four more lifeboats than was required legally in accordance with the gross tonnage of that ship.
“There was no International Ice Patrol at that time, that all came about because of the Titanic, as did the whole idea of not having lifeboats on a sundeck but instead in the middle of the boat so they’re closer to the waterline.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see new kinds of regulations imposed on this submarine tourism industry, but I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to look like.”
Experts from within and outside OceanGate raised concerns about the safety of its Titan submersible as far back as 2018.
A number of the complaints have resurfaced this week.
One ex-OceanGate Expeditions employee hired to protect the safety of submersibles and their passengers and crew, years ago claimed that Rush and other company executives ignored warning signs the Titan may be unsafe.
Similar concerns, along with the claim that the company had ignored industry-wide safety standards, were echoed in a letter delivered to the company that same year by the Marine Technology Society, according to The New York Times.
In a statement to NPR, Will Kohnen, the chair of the Marine Technology Society’s Submarine Committee, said the disappearance of the Titan “hasn’t surprised us.”
“We’ve been aware of this project for some time and have had some concerns,” said Kohnen, adding the group’s main concern was a lack of oversight and adherence to industry-accepted safety guidelines.
“Most of the companies in this industry that are building submersibles and deep submersibles follow a fairly well-established framework of certification and verification and oversight, through classification societies,” he said.
“And that was at the root of OceanGate’s project, is that they were going to go solo, going without that type of official oversight, and that brought a lot of concerns.”
Two former passengers on the Titan spoke to The U.S. Sun about their experiences aboard the vessel.
Mike Reiss, a writer for The Simpsons, and David Pogue, a reporter for CBS Sunday Morning, both went on separate excursions with OceanGate last year.
Both of the men said they witnessed the vessel experience various communication and navigational issues. Pogue’s dive had to be aborted at 37 feet after the vessel suffered a mechanical issue.
Is there really much they were going to see by looking out those windows? Why don’t you just get a huge pit in your backyard and burn $250,000 and then watch the 8k footage of the wreck they recently uploaded online?
Binder said she’s conflicted as to whether submarine tourism to the site of the Titanic should’ve been permitted to take place in the first place.
While she’s undecided, she says her ancestors certainly wouldn’t have supported the notion, and numerous other people she knows who lost relatives in the disaster are actively opposed to it, Binder claims.
“For those who lost family members, they see it still as a grave site and they think it’s tacky and obnoxious to go there,” she said.
“I mean, try to wrap your mind around 1496 human beings – men, women, and children – dying in the most painful way possible, in 28-degree water freezing to death.
“It’s horrific. And you can see the wreckage without having to physically go down there yourself.
“Is there really much they were going to see by looking out those windows? Why don’t you just get a huge pit in your backyard and burn $250,000 and then watch the 8k footage of the wreck they recently uploaded online?
“Those images were captured by unmanned subs. Is that not good enough for you, to sit back in your air-conditioned living room and enjoy?”
In another strange-seeming coincidence, Stockton Rush’s wife has since been revealed to be a direct descendent of two first-class passengers who died on the Titanic.
Wendy Rush — who is director of communications at OceanGate — is the great-great-granddaughter of Isidor and Ida Strauss.
A fictionalized version of the couple was included in Cameron’s 1997 movie, which included a scene that featured a couple holding each other as waters rose in their cabin.
Isidor and Ida Straus were an affluent couple and among the wealthiest passengers on board the Titanic. Isidor co-owned Macy’s department store at the time.
During Thursday’s press conference announcing the tragic discovery of the Titan debris, Rear Admiral of the US Coast Guard John Mauger said the sub suffered a “catastrophic implosion”.
The blast would’ve killed the crew instantly.
He added: “This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there on the sea floor and the debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel.
“And so we’ll continue to work and continue to search the area down there, but I don’t have an answer for prospects [of finding their remains] at this time.”
The debris from the imploded Titan was found on Thursday morning by a remote-operating vehicle from the vessel Horizon Arctic.
The debris included the vessel’s landing frame and rear cover.
“In consultation with experts from within the unified command, the debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber,” added Hauger.
“Upon this determination, we immediately notified the families.
“On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families. I can only imagine what this has been like for them.
“And I hope that this discovery provides some solace during this difficult time.”